- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) - Mark Sanchez’s path to becoming a leader began back in the second grade.

When his class lined up for school field trips, his parents insisted he make sure he was at the front.

If there was trash on the floor, he was the one who would pick it up and toss it.

Guess who was raising his hand when the teacher needed someone to pass out papers?

“That’s the way I’ve been taught by my parents,” the New York Jets quarterback said between practices Wednesday. “That’s just the way it was.”

And, it’s still that way for Sanchez.

He has been different for a while, a special person and talent _ something the Jets raved about after they made him the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. Now in his second NFL season, Sanchez is channeling that second-grader on the football field.

“Now, it’s, ‘This guy’s tired,’ and I’ll pick up his pads for him,” Sanchez said. “‘You need some water?’ or, ‘Give these guys a 30-second break,’ and really having that awareness to try and read other guys. When they do a great job, you’ve got to let them know. And, when they do something wrong, you’ve got to let them know. And that’s probably the toughest part, trying to find your way in there.”

Sanchez spent much of last season doing just that, making plenty of mistakes along the way. He came on strong down the stretch, though, and helped the Jets reach the AFC championship game.

The 23-year-old quarterback’s development will play a key role in whether the Jets can make a run to the Super Bowl. And it all stems from confidence, something offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer drilled into him this offseason.

“One of the goals this year that I talked with Schotty, is, ‘This is my team. This is my offense. And, you need to own it,’” Sanchez said. “He looked at me and I looked at him, and that’s what we said.”

The face of the franchise was fully embracing his role as the team leader.

“It’s about on and off the field, being the quarterback,” he said. “When we go out to dinner, when we’re in meetings, how do you act? How do you carry yourself?

“When you walk into the room, people should know: That’s the quarterback, that’s our guy.”

There’s no doubt about that among his teammates or coaches. He spent much of his time at the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J., this offseason while rehabilitating following knee surgery. Long days turned into late nights _ and training camp was still months away.

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