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Sanchez's handlers let him focus on football

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - No sooner had Mark Sanchez jogged off the field after Sunday's 17-14 upset of the Chargers than his older brother Brandon received the text message.

It was from Petros Papadakis, the former USC running back who hosts a sports-talk radio show in Los Angeles. Papadakis had tried to land Mark Sanchez for an interview all season - and what better time than now, when the rookie quarterback had led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game?

Brandon Sanchez, 31, knew this wasn't going to be easy.

"We'd go back and forth with texts all the time, but I knew this wasn't going to happen, especially this week," he said. "I just had to tell him 'no.' You don't like doing it, but this is part of the game plan for Mark."

How many moments have there been like this throughout the season? Too many for Brandon Sanchez to count.

"There have been lots of folks who've come to us, people with a clothing line saying, 'Let us put you in this tuxedo,' or 'Come to our party for this,' but the key is to set up an environment where Mark can concentrate on football."

Shortly after Sanchez decided to enter the NFL draft, he and his family, as well as agents David Dunn and Andrew Kessler, devised a plan that would keep the rookie from being besieged by off-field issues. After the Jets made the draft-day deal with Cleveland to get Sanchez, the plan became all the more urgent.

A soon-to-be-wealthy, good-looking quarterback in the New York market being touted as the next Joe Namath? Sanchez knew he needed a support system to sort through the potential minefield of distractions.

"There's a whole other side of things about being a quarterback in New York," Mark Sanchez said Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people pulling at you and trying to get a piece of you. You need to say 'no' a lot more than you're used to. You've got to be smart, and if you need somebody to say 'no,' that's why my brothers are there for me, my agents, and the Jets' PR staff. They've all been great."

Brandon Sanchez, a former offensive lineman at DePauw University, was so concerned that he moved from California to live with Mark in Bedminster, N.J. Nick Sanchez, 37, a California-based lawyer, also deals with Mark's off-field matters.

Notice that since his racy GQ spread, which was shot before the draft, that he hasn't been involved in many commercials or other high-profile ventures? It's no accident.

"Trust me, Mark Sanchez is not a celebrity quarterback," said Bruce Speight, the Jets' public relations director. "If I told you all the things we've turned down, you'd realize that."

Brandon Sanchez and his closest associates essentially have built a cocoon around Mark so he can deal with the most important task: helping the Jets win.

"He leaves early in the morning, we'll meet up for dinner on the way to the house, and then he does it again the next day," Brandon Sanchez said. "That's the dedication he needs to succeed."

And success is all Mark cares about. It's why he'll take endorsement deals only after careful deliberation, if at all. And it won't happen until he can excel at this level. Getting to the AFC title game is a good start. But there needs to be more.

"That's been our motto all year: Don't put the cart before the horse," Sanchez said. "You have to show you deserve to be in commercials. You don't do that stuff until you're 'the guy.' "

The Jets also have carefully managed Sanchez's time. Meghan Gilmore, of their public relations staff, is assigned to facilitate his media obligations, spending several hours each week doing so.

Sanchez speaks to the media after games and once during the week. He only occasionally will speak to reporters if there is a question to be asked in private. Despite almost weekly requests to speak on conference calls, the Jets limited Sanchez to five in the regular season. According to NFL media policy, no player is required to do more than five.

On the infrequent occasions Sanchez has created controversy, he has gotten help from those around him. Case in point: When he was caught eating a hot dog on the sideline during a rout of the Raiders, he was criticized for showing up the opposition.

"He's been eating something on the sidelines between series since he's seven years old," Brandon Sanchez said. "He eats like you can't imagine. You go to a diner, and he'll get a $30 bill by himself. Pancakes, eggs, you name it. That's why I didn't even think twice about it."

But once it became obvious Mark had upset coach Rex Ryan, he decided to donate 500 hot dogs and 500 hamburgers to a soup kitchen in Morristown, N.J.

"He just wanted to make it right," Brandon said. "He didn't mean anything disrespectful by eating on the sidelines, but once it became an issue, that was a way of turning it into a positive."

Just another small success for a quarterback doing his best to insulate himself from the outside world and concentrate on the only thing that matters: winning.

New York Sports