The Info List - Barry Sanders

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BARRY SANDERS (born July 16, 1968) is a former American football running back . He played professionally for the Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
of the National Football League
National Football League
(NFL). A Pro Bowl
Pro Bowl
invitee in each of his ten NFL seasons and two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year , Sanders led the league in rushing yards four times and established himself as one of the most elusive runners in pro football with his quickness and agility. In 2007, he was ranked by NFL Network
NFL Network
's NFL Top 10 series as the most elusive runner in NFL history, and also topped its list of greatest players never to play in a Super Bowl
Super Bowl

Sanders played college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys football team, where as a junior in 1988 he compiled what is considered one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history, rushing for 2,850 yards and 42 touchdowns in 12 games. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college player in the nation, the Maxwell Award as the player of the year, and was unanimously recognized as an All-American . He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
in 2003.

Sanders joined the Lions in 1989 and had an immediate impact, winning the NFL's Rookie of the Year award. Through ten seasons in Detroit, he averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season and just under 100 rushing yards per game. In 1997, he became the third player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player . Still seemingly in his prime, Sanders unexpectedly retired from football after the 1998 season, 1,457 yards short of breaking the NFL's all-time rushing record . His number 20 jersey was retired by the Lions, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame
in 2004.


* 1 Early years

* 2 College career

* 2.1 College statistics

* 3 Professional career

* 3.1 Retirement

* 4 NFL career statistics

* 5 Records

* 5.1 Collegiate * 5.2 Professional

* 6 Personal life * 7 After football * 8 See also * 9 Notes and references * 10 External links


Born in Wichita , Kansas, Sanders attended Wichita North High School . Sanders started at tailback his sophomore year, but his brother Byron started before him in that position the following year. Sanders did not become the starting running back until the fourth game of his senior year. He rushed for 1,417 yards in the final seven games of the season, which earned him all-state honors. During that seven-game span, Sanders averaged 10.2 yards per carry, but he was overlooked by most college recruiters. Although he was a stellar athlete, Sanders received scholarship offers from only Emporia State University
Emporia State University
, University of Tulsa , and Oklahoma State University-Stillwater .


Enrolling at Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University
, Sanders played for the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 1986 to 1988, and wore the No. 21. During his first two years, he backed up All-American Thurman Thomas . In 1987, he led the nation in yards per kickoff return (31.6), while also rushing for over 600 yards and scoring 8 touchdowns. Thomas moved on to the NFL, and Sanders became the starter for his junior year.

In 1988, in what is considered one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history, Sanders led the nation by averaging 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game, including rushing for over 300 yards in four games. Despite his massive workload of 344 carries, Sanders was still used as the team's punt and kickoff returner, adding another 516 yards on special teams. He set college football season records with 2,628 yards rushing, 3,248 total yards, 234 points, 39 touchdowns, 37 rushing touchdowns, 5 consecutive 200 yard games, scored at least 2 touchdowns in 11 consecutive games, and 9 times he scored at least 3 touchdowns. Sanders also ran for 222 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in his three quarters of action in the 1988 Holiday Bowl , a game that is not included in the official NCAA season statistics. Sanders learned of his Heisman Trophy win while he was with the team in Tokyo, Japan preparing to face Texas Tech in the Coca-Cola Classic . He chose to leave Oklahoma State before his senior season to enter the NFL draft.


See also: List of NCAA football records § Rushing



1986 OSU

74 325 4.4

2 0 0 0 0

1987* OSU

111 622 5.6

8 4 59


1988* OSU 12 373 2,850 7.6 237.5 42* 19 106



558 3,797 5.9

52* 23 165


*Includes bowl game. The NCAA does not include bowl games in official statistics for seasons prior to 2002.

Source: Barry Sanders at Sports Reference
Sports Reference


The Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
selected Sanders with the 3rd overall pick in the 1989 Draft , thanks to the endorsement of then-coach Wayne Fontes . The Lions' management considered drafting another Sanders, cornerback Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders
, but Fontes convinced them to draft Barry instead. He was offered No. 20, which had been worn by former Lions greats Lem Barney and Billy Sims ; Sims was one of the league's best running backs in the early 1980s, and Fontes had requested Sanders to wear the number in tribute to Sims.

Though there were concerns about his size, it turned out these concerns were unfounded. Sanders was far too quick for defenders to hit solidly on a consistent basis, and too strong to bring down with arm tackles. Though short at 5'8", his playing weight was 203 lb (91 kg) -- the same as Walter Payton
Walter Payton
, and only slightly under the NFL average for a running back. Further, Sanders' had unusual explosiveness, demonstrated by his ability to be competitive in the 1991 Footlocker slam dunk contest despite his short stature.

In 1989, Sanders missed his rookie year training camp due to a contract dispute. He ran for eighteen yards his first carry during the regular season, and scored a touchdown on his fourth. He finished the season second in the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns after declining to go back into the regular season finale just 10 yards shy of the rushing title (later won by Christian Okoye
Christian Okoye
), and won the Rookie of the Year Award .

Sanders was the featured running back on the Lion teams that made the playoffs five times during the 1990s (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1997). He was a member of the 1991 and 1993 squads that won the NFC Central division title; the 1991 team won 12 regular season games (a franchise record).

In 1994, Sanders rushed for 1,883 yards, on a 5.7 yards per carry average. He also totaled 283 receiving yards, which gave him a combined 2,166 yards from scrimmage for the season. He was named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year. In 1995, Sanders posted 1,500 yards rushing with 398 receiving yards, beating his rushing total alone of the '94 season. In 1996, Sanders rushed for 1,553 yards with a career-low 147 receiving yards.

Sanders' greatest season came in 1997 when he became a member of the 2,000 rushing yards club . After a start in which he gained 53 yards on 25 carries in the first two games of the season, Sanders ran for an NFL record 14 consecutive 100 yard games, including two 200 yard performances, en route to rushing for 2,053 yards. In reaching the 2,000 yard plateau, he became only the third player to do so in a single season and the first since O. J. Simpson
O. J. Simpson
to rush for 2,000 yards in a span of 14 consecutive games. He was the first running back to rush for 1,500 yards in five seasons and the only one to do it four consecutive years. At the end of the season, Sanders shared the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player
NFL Most Valuable Player
Award with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre
Brett Favre

In Sanders' last season in the NFL, 1998, he rushed for 1,491 yards, ending his four-year streak of rushing for over 1,500 yards in a season.

Despite his individual success, the Lions never reached the Super Bowl while Sanders was with the team. The closest they came was in the 1991 season . Aided by Sanders' 1,855 combined rushing/receiving yards and 17 touchdowns during the season, they recorded a 12–4 record and went on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
38–6 in the divisional playoffs, which still stands as Detroit's only playoff victory since defeating the Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
to win the 1957 NFL Championship . The Lions lost to the Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins
41–10 in the NFC Championship Game
NFC Championship Game
, and Sanders was held to 59 total yards in the game.

In Sanders' career, he achieved Pro Bowl
Pro Bowl
status in all of his 10 seasons. Sanders was named first team All-Pro six times from 1989–1991 and 1993, 1994 and 1997. He was also named second team All-Pro four times in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1998. Sanders was also named All-NFC from 1989–92 and 1994–97. Sanders was named Offensive Player of the Year in '94 and '97, NFL MVP
in '97, and was named to the 1990s NFL All-Decade team.

In contrast to many of the star players of his era, Sanders was also noted for his on-field humility. Despite his flashy playing style, Sanders was rarely seen celebrating after the whistle was blown. Instead, he handed the ball to a referee or congratulated his teammates.


On July 27, 1999, Sanders announced he was quitting pro football. His retirement was made public by faxing a letter to the Wichita Eagle , his hometown newspaper.

He left football healthy, having gained 15,269 rushing yards, 2,921 receiving yards, and 109 touchdowns (99 rushing and 10 receiving). He retired within striking distance of Walter Payton
Walter Payton
's career rushing mark of 16,726 yards. Only Payton and Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith
have rushed for more yards than Sanders.

Sanders' retirement came somewhat unexpectedly and was a matter of controversy. Two years earlier, Sanders had renewed his contract with the Lions for $34.56 million over six years with an $11 million signing bonus. The Lions demanded that he return $5.5 million of the bonus. Sanders refused, and the Lions sued. On February 15, 2000, an arbitrator ruled that Sanders had to immediately repay $1.833 million (a sixth of the bonus), with the remaining bonus to be repaid over each of the three years Sanders had left on the contract provided he stayed retired. Before the ruling, Sanders offered to pay back the entire $5.5 million in return for his release from the team. The Lions refused, stating they would welcome Sanders back to the team; otherwise, they would honor his announced retirement. Sanders' agent David Ware lobbied the team to trade his client. However, it had been a long-standing practice for the Lions to not accommodate players' requests for trades, and other teams were reluctant to discuss Sanders while he was still under contract.

It was thought by some that Lions head coach Bobby Ross
Bobby Ross
himself may have actually been the reason for his early retirement, but in his autobiography Barry Sanders: Now You See Him, Sanders stated that Ross had nothing to do with his retirement and praised him as a head coach.



Led the league

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* ^ Sanders, Barry (23 November 2011). "@BarrySanders". Twitter. Retrieved September 9, 2013. When the truth is — I have no middle name. Thus making my son, Barry James Sanders, not a Barry "junior". * ^ NFL Network
NFL Network
(May 28, 2008). "Top 10 most elusive runners in NFL history". NFL.com. National Football League. Retrieved September 9, 2013. * ^ "Some all-time great players never even reached Super Bowl". NFL.com. National Football League. January 30, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2013. * ^ A B Merron, Jeff. "Best individual college football seasons". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 14, 2017. The only serious question when composing this list was 'Who's No. 2?' * ^ A B C D E F " Barry Sanders Career Biography and Statistics". SportHaven.com. Demand Media, Inc. 2009. Archived from the original on 8 December 2009. Retrieved September 9, 2013. * ^ Sanders, Barry; McCormick, Mark E (2003). Now you see him... his story in his own words. Introduction by John Madden
John Madden
. Indianapolis: B. Sanders, Inc., in conjunction with Emmis Books. ISBN 1578601398 . OCLC
53833879 . * ^ Maisel, Ivan (August 3, 2014). "Great seasons are not created equal". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 14, 2017. * ^ " 1988 Holiday Bowl Summary". Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-29. * ^ Trotter, Jake (August 8, 2014). "Sanders\' 1988 season stands alone". ESPN
. Retrieved August 8, 2014. * ^ Rank, Adam (February 12, 2014). "Throwback Thursday - Wish you could\'ve stayed". National Football League
National Football League
. Retrieved February 27, 2014. * ^ " Barry Sanders vs. Mike Powell dunk contest Foot Locker 1991 dunking slam fest". YouTube. Retrieved 30 July 2015. * ^ Merron, Jeff (September 2003). "LT best NFL rookie of all time". ESPN. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-12. * ^ "The Cheap Seats: Finally, Sanders Speaks" Archived October 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
., 3 December 2003 * ^ "Arbitrator finds Sanders must pay back $1.83 million". sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Detroit. Associated Press. 15 February 2000. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2015. * ^ Pasche, Paula (2012). "39". 100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Triumph. Retrieved 2016-03-18. * ^ "TDIF: Sanders Joins Payton in Record Books". NFL.com. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015. * ^ "In Residence: Lauren Sanders - Detroit Home - Winter 2010 - Detroit, MI". Detroithomemag.com. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ "Lauren Sanders Meet The Local 4 News Team". Clickondetroit.com. 2014-01-10. Archived from the original on 2013-12-20. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ File
photos (2012-02-27). "Ex-Lion Barry Sanders files for divorce from WDIV
weekend anchor Lauren Campbell". MLive.com. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ "ESPU 150\'s Barry J. Sanders commits to Stanford Cardinal - ESPN". Espn.go.com. 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ Fedotin, Jeff (2009-09-09). "Barry Sanders\'son looks like future star". Okvarsity.rivals.com. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ video clips of Barry Sanders\' son * ^ Baker, Matt. "In his father\'s image: Barry James Sanders is familiar, but for more than his name", Tulsa World
Tulsa World
, August 30, 2010. * ^ " Barry Sanders to open MNF sans song". UPI.com. October 8, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-08. * ^ "Vote for EA Sports\' \' Madden NFL
Madden NFL
25\' Cover Athlete - SportsNation #MaddenCoverVote - ESPN". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2014-01-15. * ^ " Barry Sanders wins Madden vote". ESPN
. April 25, 2013. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2013.

General references

* Ron Knapp Sports Great Barry Sanders Revised Edition copyright date 1999 page 16. * Gil Brandt. "Hall recall: Barry Sanders", NFL.com, July 22, 2004. * Craig Ellenport. "Sanders was born to run", NFL.com, August 8, 2004. * Mark McCormick and Barry Sanderss. Barry Sanders: Now you See Him: His Story in His Own Words (Emmis Books, 2003). ISBN 1-57860-139-8 * Sam Mellinger. "A Hard Man to Catch", The Kansas City Star
The Kansas City Star
, August 8, 2004, pp. C1, C8.