A native of Shreveport where he was an outstanding athlete at Fair Park High School, Sanford played at Louisiana tech from 1947 and 1950 and became one of the most acclaimed players ever for the Bulldogs. He was a two-time all-conference pick at center and linebacker and was named to Tom Harmon's little all-America club in 1950. He was later chosen for the all-Louisiana First 100 Years of Football mythical squad at linebacker. From Tech, Sanford went to the NFL where he played for the Chicago Cardinals from 1951 through 1957, serving as defensive captain and being chosen for NFL Pro Bowl in 1957 and 1958. In 1983, Leo received the Distinguished America Award from the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame at the Independence Bowl.