Before Nebraska (Dundy County-Stratton HS/Hastings College)
Phalen Sanford joined the Husker program as a walk-on after spending his freshman year at Hastings College. Sanford redshirted as a member of the Bronco football team while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Sanford demonstrated his athletic ability by competing in numerous track and field events at Hastings, including the heptathlon. He won three event titles as a freshman and qualified for the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships in the high jump, finishing 24th.
In high school, Sanford was a three-sport star for Dundy County-Stratton. On the gridiron, Sanford played eight-man football and was an honorable-mention all-state selection as a junior and a first-team pick as a senior. In the winter, Sanford starred on the basketball court, averaging nearly 16 points per game in his career, including 21.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a senior. He was a three-time all-state selection, including earning first-team accolades as a junior. In track and field, Sanford was a six-time state champion, winning titles in five different events. He closed his career in grand fashion, winning state titles in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash and 1,600-meter relay. He set the Class C record in the 300-meter hurdles and contributed to all 40 points Dundy County-Stratton scored as a team in their third-place finish.