Barry Sanders (born July 16, 1968) is a former American football running back. He played professionally for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). A 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'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. He is often regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
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 and was unanimously recognized as an All-American. He was inducted into the 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 in 2004.
Sanders in 2010
|Born:||July 16, 1968|
|Height:||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Weight:||200 lb (91 kg)|
|High school:||Wichita (KS) North|
|NFL Draft:||1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
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, University of Tulsa, and Oklahoma State University-Stillwater.
Enrolling at 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.
|*Includes bowl game. The NCAA does not include bowl games in official statistics for seasons prior to 2002.|
|Source: Barry Sanders at Sports Reference|
The 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, 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, and only slightly under the NFL average for a running back. Furthermore, 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), 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. In Week 11, a 14–9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he broke the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game without scoring a touchdown with 237. 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 (though he passed Eric Dickerson as the active leader in career rushing yards), 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 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 Award with Green Bay Packers quarterback 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 38–6 in the divisional playoffs, which still stands as Detroit's only playoff victory since defeating the Cleveland Browns to win the 1957 NFL Championship. The Lions lost to the Washington Redskins 41–10 in the NFC Championship Game, and Sanders was held to 59 total yards in the game. (Like the Lions themselves, Sanders was often a disappointment at playoff time; in six post-season games, he rushed for only 386 yards -- and that included the 169 yards he rolled up against the Packers in the 1993 divisional playoff. Against the same team the following year, Green Bay keyed on Sanders and held him to minus-1 yards rushing on thirteen carries; it was his worst game in a Lions uniform.)
In Sanders' career, he achieved Pro Bowl status in all ten of his NFL 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.
He left football healthy, having gained 15,269 rushing yards (the highest total rushing yards ever by any NFL player in a 10-year span), 2,921 receiving yards, and 109 touchdowns (99 rushing and 10 receiving). He retired within striking distance of Walter Payton's career rushing mark of 16,726 yards. Only Payton and 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 Lamont Smith lobbied the team to trade his client.
It was thought by some that Lions head coach 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|
|NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year|
|NFL Offensive Player of the Year|
Sanders has four sons. The youngest three of his sons are with his ex-wife, Lauren Campbell Sanders. A publication notes that he is deeply but quietly religious (Christian). Sanders filed for divorce from his wife Lauren Sanders, a former news anchor for WDIV in Detroit, in February 2012 after 12 years of marriage.
Sanders' son, Barry J. Sanders, played running back for Stanford University from 2012 to 2015 after a highly successful high school career: as a freshman in 2008, Barry ran for 742 yards and twelve touchdowns while helping Heritage Hall School to the 2008 Oklahoma 2A state title, and he was the only sophomore on the 2009 Tulsa World all-state team.
In April 2013, Sanders made it to the finals in the EA Sports Madden NFL 25 cover vote by beating Ron Rivera in Round One, Marcus Allen in Round Two, Ray Lewis in Round Three, Joe Montana in the quarter-finals, and Jerry Rice in the semi-finals. He then went on to beat Adrian Peterson to become the next cover athlete, the 1st player to appear on the cover of Madden NFL Football more than once (he appeared in the background of the Madden NFL 2000 cover).
When the truth is — I have no middle name. Thus making my son, Barry James Sanders, not a Barry "junior".
The only serious question when composing this list was 'Who's No. 2?'
The 1987 Oklahoma State Cowboys football team represented the Oklahoma State University in the 1987 NCAA Division I-A college football season. The Cowboys finished the regular season with a 9–2 record. Thurman Thomas was in his senior year for the Cowboys. In his career at Oklahoma State, Thomas had 897 rushes for 4,595 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 21 100-yard rushing games. He was also a Heisman Trophy candidate and a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in 1987. In the 1987 Sun Bowl, Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns in the 35–33 victory over West Virginia, keeping Barry Sanders on the sidelines for the majority of the game. Thomas left OSU as the school's all-time leading rusher and his number 34 is one of only three jerseys retired at Oklahoma State. Sanders replaced Thomas as starter the next year in 1988.1988 NCAA Division I-A football season
The 1988 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with Notre Dame winning the national championship. The Fighting Irish won the title via a 34-21 defeat of previously unbeaten West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. With 4 of the final Top 5 teams being independents (with the University of Miami and Florida State joining the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers), 1988 became a focus for fans and critics who wondered how the traditional conferences would deal with the indies (the answer ultimately involved all of these teams joining major conferences).
Notre Dame had several notable victories this season, including a 19–17 victory over #9 Michigan, won on a last drive field goal, which started off the championship season. The season's marquee game was a 31–30 victory over #1 Miami. Entering the game, Miami had a 36-game regular season winning streak, 20 straight road victories and a 16-game winning streak overall. This year was also the first time Notre Dame and USC had ever met when ranked #1 and #2. Most notable about this game is Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's decision to leave behind two of his stars, Tony Brooks and Ricky Watters because they were late, cementing discipline as the main theme of this championship team.
This year's edition of the UCLA–USC rivalry game featured a second ranked USC and a fourth ranked UCLA. For the second year in a row the Rose Bowl berth was on the line but for USC it also had national title implications as the rivalry game with Notre Dame was the following week. USC beat UCLA but lost to Notre Dame, and then lost to Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders ran the Wing T offense all the way to the Heisman Trophy and numerous rushing records.1988 Oklahoma State Cowboys football team
The 1988 Oklahoma State Cowboys football team represented the Oklahoma State University in the 1988 NCAA Division I-A college football season. Barry Sanders was in his junior year for the Cowboys.1989 Detroit Lions season
The 1989 Detroit Lions season was the franchise’s 60th season in the National Football League, their 56th as the Detroit Lions, and is best known as the beginning of the Barry Sanders era. Sanders, the previous year’s Heisman Trophy winner, was drafted 3rd overall by the Lions in the 1989 NFL Draft and was named to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
After starting the season with five straight losses and bottoming out at 2–9, the Lions won five in a row and six out of seven to finish the season with a 7–9 record. Nonetheless, it was their sixth consecutive losing season and their seventh of the decade.1989 NFL Draft
The 1989 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 23–24, 1989, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.
The draft is noted for having four of the first five players selected – quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders, linebacker Derrick Thomas, and cornerback Deion Sanders – being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, the only top five pick not inducted, is considered a draft bust.
The 1989 NFL Draft also helped set a major precedent, as Barry Sanders was selected with the third overall pick despite an NFL rule stating that collegiate juniors could not declare for the draft.1990 Detroit Lions season
The 1990 Detroit Lions season was the 61st season in franchise history and their 57th in Detroit. Despite a stellar season from Barry Sanders who scored 16 touchdowns and led the league in rushing, the Lions took a step backward and finished in third place with a disappointing, seventh-consecutive losing record of 6–10, as they struggled to find a consistent quarterback.1991 Detroit Lions season
The 1991 Detroit Lions season was the franchise's 62nd season in the National Football League, their 58th as the Detroit Lions. It stands as the team's best season since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. 
The team finished 12–4, won the NFC Central Division, and appeared in the playoffs for the first time since 1983; it also marked the team's first winning season since 1983. The Lions finished the season undefeated in the Pontiac Silverdome, including playoffs, and the team did not lose a game at an indoor facility the entire season, having made trips to Indianapolis and Minnesota during the year.
This season also saw the Lions debut of wide receiver Herman Moore, the team's 1991 first round draft pick who went on to set records as part of an explosive passing offense later in the decade. The 1991 season was the last season that saw the Lions sweep the Packers until 2017. It was also the last time the Lions would win at Lambeau Field until 2015. From 1992 until 2014, the Lions lost 24 straight games in Wisconsin (three in Milwaukee, 21 in Green Bay) against the Packers.1992 Detroit Lions season
The 1992 Detroit Lions season was the 63rd season in franchise history. After going 12–4 from the 1991 season, the Lions took a step back as they posted a disappointing 5-11 record despite another Pro Bowl season from Barry Sanders, who passed Billy Sims for the franchise record in rushing on November 22. The Lions were expected to once again challenge for the NFC title.1994 Detroit Lions season
The 1994 Detroit Lions season was the 65th season in franchise history. The Lions finished with a 9-7 record and made their second consecutive playoff appearance as one of the NFC's Wildcard teams -- the first time the franchise had made the playoffs in consecutive non-strike seasons since 1954.
Despite the signing of Scott Mitchell from Miami in the offseason, it was former Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg who led the Lions into the playoffs following an injury to Mitchell. For the second consecutive year, the Lions lost in the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers.1995 Detroit Lions season
The 1995 Detroit Lions season was the team's 66th in the National Football League (NFL). Finishing at 10-6, it marked the Lions' third consecutive winning season, which had not been accomplished in Detroit since the team posted four consecutive winning seasons from 1969-1972.
It was also the Lions' third straight postseason appearance, and fourth in five seasons -- the franchises' best stretch since the 1950s.
The Lions started the season 0-3 and were 3–6 after a Week 10 loss in Atlanta. However, starting with a Week 11 win over Tampa Bay, the Lions won a franchise-record seven consecutive games to close out the season and clinch a playoff berth.
Herman Moore had a career season as he broke Cris Carter’s NFL record for most receptions in a season (123). Moore and teammate Brett Perriman (108 catches) became the first receiver duo to each have more than 100 receptions in the same season.
The Lions' 436 points scored was the most in franchise history until it was eclipsed by the 2011 team.For the third consecutive year, however, the Lions could not win a playoff game and were eliminated as they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 58-37 in the wild card round.1997 Detroit Lions season
The 1997 Detroit Lions season was their 68th in the National Football League (NFL).
The Lions rebounded from a disastrous 1996 season, finishing 9-7 and qualifying for the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons -- the best stretch in franchise history.
Bobby Ross replaced Wayne Fontes as head coach. The highlight of the season was Barry Sanders becoming the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. Sanders shared the 1997 Associated Press MVP Award with Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
As a team, the Lions set an NFL rushing record, gaining 5.51 yards per rushing attempt. The Lions scored 379 points in 1997, the fourth-most of any team in the league.1997 NFL season
The 1997 NFL season was the 78th regular season of the National Football League. The Oilers relocated from Houston, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee. The newly renamed Tennessee Oilers played their home games during this season at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee while construction of a new stadium in Nashville started. Houston would rejoin the NFL with the expansion Texans in 2002.
This was the last season to date that TNT broadcast NFL games, as well as the last for NBC until 2006. When the TV contracts were renewed near the end of the season, Fox retained the National Football Conference package, CBS took over the American Football Conference package and ESPN won the right to televise all of the Sunday night games.
Due to Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, the Chicago Bears–Miami Dolphins game at Pro Player Stadium was delayed one day to Monday, October 27.
The Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both changed their uniforms, and the new uniforms for both teams were introduced during this season.
The season ended with Super Bowl XXXII when the Denver Broncos defeated the Green Bay Packers 31–24 at Qualcomm Stadium. This broke the National Football Conference's streak of thirteen consecutive Super Bowl victories, the last American Football Conference win having been the Los Angeles Raiders defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII.1998 Detroit Lions season
The 1998 Detroit Lions season was their 69th in the league. The team failed to improve upon their previous season's output of 9–7 and did not make a repeat playoff appearance, instead posting their third 5–11 mark in seven seasons. This was the last year Barry Sanders would ever play in the NFL.1999 Pro Bowl
The 1999 Pro Bowl was the NFL's all-star game for the 1998 season. The game was played on February 7, 1999, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. The final score was AFC 23, NFC 10. Keyshawn Johnson of the New York Jets and Ty Law of the New England Patriots were the game's MVPs. This game was also the last game in the career of Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, and Detroit Lions Running back Barry Sanders. The referee was Dick Hantak.Barry J. Sanders
Barry James Sanders (born April 10, 1994) is a former American football running back. He played college football for the Stanford Cardinal football team from 2012 to 2015 and the Oklahoma State Cowboys football team in 2016.Best NFL Player ESPY Award
The Best NFL Player ESPY Award has been presented annually since 1993 to the National Football League player adjudged to be the best in a given calendar year, namely in the NFL season immediately precedent to the holding of the ESPY Awards ceremony.
Between 1993 and 2004, the award voting panel comprised variously fans; sportswriters and broadcasters, sports executives, and retired sportspersons, termed collectively experts; but balloting thereafter has been exclusively by fans over the Internet from amongst choices selected by the ESPN Select Nominating Committee.
Through the 2001 iteration of the ESPY Awards, ceremonies were conducted in February of each year to honor achievements over the previous calendar year; awards presented thereafter are conferred in June and reflect performance from the June previous.
In 2014, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos became the first 3-time winner breaking a tie with Barry Sanders, Brett Favre, Marshall Faulk. Aaron Rodgers would later surpass him in 2017 when he won his fourth.National Football League 1990s All-Decade Team
The NFL 1990s All-Decade Team was chosen by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The team was composed of outstanding performers in the National Football League in the 1990s.The squad consists of first- and second-team offensive, defensive and special teams units, as well as a first- and second-team head coaches. Only a person's performance in the 1990s was used as criteria for voting.Bruce Matthews, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Bruce Smith and Reggie White were unanimous choices. Deion Sanders and Mel Gray were the only players to make the team at two positions. Sanders was named first-team cornerback and punt returner while Gray made the second team as both a kick and punt returner. Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson, Sean Landeta, Ronnie Lott, Gary Zimmerman, Rice, Bruce Smith, and White were first named to the 1980s All-Decade Team. Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, and Willie Roaf were also named to the 2000s All-Decade Team.Oklahoma State Cowboys football statistical leaders
The Oklahoma State Cowboys football statistical leaders are individual statistical leaders of the Oklahoma State Cowboys football program in various categories, including passing, rushing, receiving, total offense, defensive stats, and kicking. Within those areas, the lists identify single-game, single-season, and career leaders. The Cowboys represent Oklahoma State University–Stillwater in the NCAA's Big 12 Conference.
Although Oklahoma State began competing in intercollegiate football in 1901, the school's official record book considers the "modern era" to have begun in 1945. Records from before this year are often incomplete and inconsistent, and they are generally not included in these lists.
These lists are dominated by more recent players for several reasons:
Since 1945, seasons have increased from 10 games to 11 and then 12 games in length.
The NCAA didn't allow freshmen to play varsity football until 1972 (with the exception of the World War II years), allowing players to have four-year careers.
The Cowboys have played in 26 bowl games in their history, with 14 of them coming since 2002. While the NCAA didn't count bowl game statistics until 2002, and most schools follow this policy, Oklahoma State's official records count all bowl game statistics. This means that while the NCAA recognizes Barry Sanders's single-season rushing yards record of 2,628 as the national record, Oklahoma State counts his stats from the 1988 Holiday Bowl as well and recognizes the record as 2,850 yards.These lists are updated through the 2017 season.Wayne Fontes
Wayne Fontes (; born February 2, 1940) is a former American football coach and college and professional football player who was the head coach of the National Football League's Detroit Lions from 1988 to 1996. His 67 wins and 71 losses are each the most for a head coach in team history.
Barry Sanders—awards and honors