Barry Sanders spent his time in organized football racking up the kind of awards and numbers that prove that he is indeed worthy of being included in every discussion over who the greatest running back of all time was. Barry Sanders dominated the offensive side of the ball at every level he played at, and though team success would largely elude him, he would experience a great amount of success on an individual basis as well as with the fans.
Sanders is remembered by football fans every where as one of the most elusive running backs they ever saw. It was a regular occurrence to see Barry Sanders take the hand off, be immediately confronted by defensive players in his own backfield, only to spin and juke his way to positive yardage. Many of the most memorable runs of his career started with him having to change direction because the defense seemed to have him in their sights, only to eventually lose him in the end.
Barry Sanders did not start playing running back for his high school football team until the fourth game during his senior year. In the seven remaining games of the season, he would rack up over 1,300 yards and be named to the all-state team. Few colleges recruited Sanders because of him being only 5’8″ tall and he ended up attending Oklahoma State University and spent his first two years there backing up Thurman Thomas. In 1988, Barry Sanders got his chance at the starting running back position and definitely made the most of it. During that year, called by some the greatest season in the history of college football, Sanders would lead the nation by averaging over 200 yards per game and an amazing 7.6 yards per carry. He would set the college football season record for rushing yards (2,628), total yards (3,249), points (234), touchdowns scored (39), rushing touchdowns (37), consecutive 200 yard games (5), consecutive games scoring two or more touchdowns (11), and number of games scoring three or more touchdowns (9). Sanders would leave Oklahoma State after this one season as a starter, winning the Heisman Trophy, and entering the NFL Draft where he would be selected in the first round by the Detroit Lions.
During his ten year career as the starting running back with the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders would be named to the Pro Bowl and also be named an All-Pro selection every year he was in the league. Among his other awards are winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award (1989), the NFL MVP award (1997), the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award (1994, 1997), and the Bert Bell Award (1991, 1997). Perhaps his greatest season came in 1997 when he would rush for 2,053 yards, amazingly after the second game of the season he had only accumulated 53 yards. He would go on to run off fourteen consecutive 100 yard rushing games, which is also a record. He would actually have two games that season where he averaged nine yards a carry. Following the next season, Barry Sanders would surprise the football world by announcing his retirement from the National Football League.
Barry Sanders was one of the most dominant running backs to ever play football, not bad for someone only 5’8″ tall. He was the class of his league no matter what league he played in. He set numerous records, won many awards, and reached a great number of achievements before retiring from the game far too early. Barry Sanders entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and it is easy to see why he has gone down in history as truly one of the best ever.