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MARK SANCHEZ


Mark Travis John Sanchez (born November 11, 1986) is an American football quarterback for the New York Jets of the National Football League. He was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft as the second quarterback and the fifth overall selection by the New York Jets. He played college football at the University of Southern California. Sanchez is only the fourth rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his first playoff game and the second to win two playoff games in his rookie season.

Sanchez was born in Long Beach, California and is of Mexican American descent. As a high school quarterback at Mission Viejo High School, he was named football player of the year by several major college recruiting services and was considered the top quarterback in the nation coming out of high school in 2005.  He chose to attend USC, where he rose to starting quarterback his redshirt junior season. Because of his heritage, Sanchez found himself thrust into the spotlight as a symbol of Mexican-American identity and a role model for children. In his single season as the starting quarterback, Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 season and No. 2 ranking in the Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the AP Poll, while capturing the 2009 Rose Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player award. After initially showing interest in staying for his final season of eligibility, he became the first USC quarterback since Todd Marinovich after the 1990 season to leave school with remaining eligibility to enter to the NFL Draft, although because of his redshirt season he had accumulated sufficient credits to graduate and left the USC campus with a bachelor's degree in Communications.

When Sanchez was elevated to prominence at USC, he found himself a symbol of Mexican-American identity and a role model for children. Being at USC put him in the center of the spotlight in Los Angeles, a metropolitan area populated with more than 4.6 million Hispanics, three-quarters of whom are Mexican. He began getting attention from the media in Mexico. While there had been previous, successful Mexican-American quarterbacks such as Jim Plunkett, Joe Kapp, Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo, and Marc Bulger, unlike his predecessors, Sanchez was a third-generation, full-blooded Mexican-American. USC fans began playing up Sanchez' ethnicity by wearing items such as sarapes, lucha libre masks and homemade "Viva Sanchez!" T-shirts. His rise to fame within the Mexican-American community was compared to that of boxer Oscar De La Hoya and baseball pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. During his first two games as a starter in 2007, Sanchez wore a custom-made mouthpiece that featured the colors of the Mexican flag in honor of his heritage.  Although little noticed during his first game against Arizona, it became a prominent issue after his nationally-televised game against Notre Dame.

An item that Sanchez wore because he thought it was "cool" became a symbol for two opposing viewpoints: for Mexican-Americans, it was a symbol of solidarity-Sanchez publicly accepting his roots; for detractors, the gesture symbolized radical activism.  Sanchez, who was born and raised in the U.S., reportedly received letters urging him to go back to Mexico.  Sanchez himself stated, "It's not a Mexican power thing or anything like that. It's just a little bit of pride in our heritage. Hopefully, it inspires somebody and it's all for the best." Surprised by all the attention and shying away from politics, Sanchez stopped wearing the mouthpiece, but began participating in other efforts to benefit the Hispanic community.  Sanchez, who knew how to speak some Spanish but was not bilingual going into his junior season at USC, began taking Spanish lessons so he could do interviews with the Spanish-language media without a translator.  He began speaking to high school kids from predominantly Hispanic Santa Ana and East Los Angeles.  The USC band began to play "El Matador", a 1993 song by the Argentine band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, when Sanchez would take the field.   He participated in programs which provides school supplies to first-graders in heavily Hispanic areas of Long Beach and the South Bay, and joined L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in distributing holiday gifts to needy families. 

By the end of his USC career, he had been hailed as a significant role model for Hispanic youth in America.  Sanchez serves as the official Ambassador to the Inner-City Games Los Angeles, an after-school program that provides at-risk youth with positive alternatives.  Sanchez was most recently seen throwing out a first pitch at a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game on behalf of the organization.


MARK SANCHEZ ON ESPN
Interview on ESPN with the Jets quarterback.


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