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Where Are They Now Barry Sanders

Updated on March 4, 2007

Barry Sanders photo (Courtesy Sporting News)

Barry Sanders was one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time.

Playing behind Thurman Thomas (who later went on to a successful career with the Buffalo Bills) at Oklahoma State, Sanders was basically a kick returner his first two years at college and many believed he was too short (5' 8") to be an effective full-time running back. But in his junior year, Sanders was handed the starting job and went on to win the Heisman Trophy that year, 1988. He decided to skip his senior year and become eligible for the NFL draft. The Detroit Lions selected Sanders with their first pick in the 1989 draft (third overall) and In a career that spanned ten seasons with one team, Sanders led the NFL in rushing yards four times (1990, 1994, 1996, 1997). He was the second-leading rusher in NFL history (15, 269 total yards) before being surpassed by Emmitt Smith, and is the only running back other than Jim Brown to average 5 yards per carry for his career. He also made the Pro Bowl every season he was in the NFL .

But at the age of 31, Sanders abruptly retired before the 1999 season. At the time, he had a few years remaining on a large contract extension he had signed two years prior. The Lions wound up suing Sanders for most of the $11 million signing bonus they had paid him, and won the court decision.

Many football fans, especially Lions fans, never really understood why Sanders retired in his prime, and it wasn't until several years later that he admitted the losing ways for most of his career with the team were taking a toll on him physically and emotionally. In fact, the only season that the Lions made it past the first round of the playoffs with Sanders was 1991, when they lost in the NFC Championship game to Washington.

Today, Barry Sanders still lives in suburban Detroit with his wife, Lauren, and three kids. He is a majority stockholder of a bank in Tulsa, and attends car shows and charity events. He co-wrote a book with Mark McCormick that was published in 2003, Barry Sanders: Now you See Him: His Story in His Own Words. Sanders occasionally has book signing events and hosts The Barry Sanders & Friends golf tournament in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.


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      Bud fox 5 years ago

      Barry was a class act. A rare combination of speed and inteligence. Abercrombie was a first round pick but didn't have that rare combination. I do agree with the other comments his time in Pittsburgh was productive. Keep in mind he was drafted 12 in 1st round 1982 draft. 5 guys drafted before him were pro bowlers or hall of famers. Jim McMahon and Marcus Allen just to name a few. But I think either of these two would accel. In the present day league.

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      Gordon 5 years ago

      There was rumor of Barry coaching a squad out of Wexford.

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      Jason Jensen 5 years ago

      I will start by saying I blead Green and Gold. However being a division rival I was afforded the opportunity oh to often to witness Barry slip through the line with out any holes then shake linebacker out of his shoes before scampering 50 yds to the house where he humbely handed the ball to the official. We as fans will never know the full reasoning on why Mr. Sanders decided to walk away from the game he dominated so well at. We are left to only wonder what would have become of him or his numbers with a few more seasons. Thanks for the memories Barry Truly the best runner of the pig skin and by far the most exciting, although scary when playing my Packers!!!!!

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      Wayne Fox 5 years ago

      I've been a Lions fan sense 1978(I was 10). I remember every game Barry played. I will always consider him the BEST RB of all time.

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      Burt 5 years ago

      He is a class act and a fan favorite. Save your prayers for Tom Brady pray for Barry. I agree with Tony. Walters time in Pittsburgh was productive.

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      Jason 5 years ago

      Barry gets my vote for best rb ever, even though I had to watch him and Walter terrorize my Ashwaubenon squad game after game after game. Why did I think he was deceased? Not only is he the epitome of elusiveness on the field, but even more so off?? Barry, if you're reading this, please get the limelight back on you. You're one in a trillion and it's like I feel betrayed or something. IDK the world needs your influence and inspiration desperately. Look what's happening at soccer games! Your voice could be a catalyst for immense change.

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      JC 6 years ago

      Look at the level of support Payton, Smith and other greats had compared to the level Sanders didn't have. Sanders, was the best of the best!

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      yanlex 6 years ago

      Barry.... Hands down was the quickest and greatest. No O line and outrageous stats!

    • JasonCulley profile image

      JasonCulley 6 years ago from Cheyenne, WY

      Barry Sanders was amazing to watch. Great hub!


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      Graydon 6 years ago

      One of the few players that could get me to watch a game regardless of how bad the team around him was or who they were playing. I think he was the most entertaining and skilled running back ever.

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      LOCAL 735 YPSI ROBIN 6 years ago




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      mario 6 years ago

      does anyone know if or where barry has any signings coming up?

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      Paul 6 years ago

      Barry was such a great player I would have rooted for him if was a Lion or had gone with any other team.

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      Tony 6 years ago

      A running back debate would be incomplete without mentioning Walter Abercrombie. His time in Pittsburgh was productive.

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      tommy b. 6 years ago

      Both you guys are in his own mind. Every one knows whos the best and that is EMMITT SMITH

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      lamusic 6 years ago

      Walt_talley your an idiot. Berry was the best ever!

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      walt_talley 6 years ago

      sissy quitter!!!!!!! Walter Payton played all those years for bum teams and never quit but in his final season of 1985 he won the championship, a TEAM PLAYER!!!!

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      Daniel Smith 6 years ago

      Barry I became more interested in football when I watched one of your games your rookie year as a Lion. You are a class act and a courageous and generous soul. I have your book and I believe all of your rookie cards, a jersey, a Barry coin, and an autographed plane ticket that you signed for me that was mailed to me from Mrs. Jones' daughter who works at the Detroit airport, once you were told that I was your biggest fan. I live in Fort Worth Texas and have never been to Detroit but still am a fan. That's the impact you have had on me. God Bless you and your family.

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      John 7 years ago

      The lions should have let him go, I would have loved to see Barry play for new Orleans saints. Barry was and still is and will forever be the best.

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      Rick Stephenson 7 years ago

      There was and is a very spiritual side to Barry Sanders. I watched Barry play all ten of his years in Detroit. The Lions family definitely let Barry down, but he was on another course anyway. That's what makes Barry...Barry. I do miss him. He brought so much class to Detroit, much like Joe Dumars did for the Pistons and Steve Yzerman for the Red Wings.

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      Buck 7 years ago

      Barry is the best. I think the steelers will loose in Pittsburgh this sat when they play the ravens. But if they had Barry they would crush them. Did he go to high school at Franklin regional. I believe J. Bach was the coach. If anyone has any info. Let me know.

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      Gin Darras 7 years ago

      Mr. Sanders: I am a fan from S.F., New Mexico. I became a Detroit Lions in 1975 fan-then a Barry Sanders fanatic-The fact that you were an outstanding running back,and the class you displayed through-out years of Detroit lions loses-you still played 110%. I was frastrated team wasn't strong enough to assist you in your team goals. You were a one man team. They didn't spend money to get you help! After all these years I still talk about my fraustrations when you played. My biggest heart breaks, I saved to see you play in Arizona and had emergency surgery. I am now a proud owner of a signed stats jersey. I will always be a fan! God Bless you and your family.

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      power 7 years ago

      I'm from Detroit "football fan" and you're dead wrong it had nothing to do with money he was tired of losing he asked the lions for a trade they denied him and got him no help. They weren't interested in winning just in making a lot of money off his name. Then when he said he was gonna retire they made sure he couldn't sign with anybody else because they owned his rights I hate the lions and I was the biggest football fan around.

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      Isaac 7 years ago

      Barry sanders is the bomb hes the best running back in the nfl

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      B A R R Y S A N  7 years ago


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      Go barry Sanders!

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      Frank 7 years ago

      Barry Sanders is the best there is and ever will be. But why are all of you cutting him down? If you have stepped up to the plate and went into the NFL then you can talk. But if you can't shut up.

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      Jared 7 years ago

      I agree. I remember someone saying it was like Christmas and Easter and your birthday rolled up in one when Barry got the ball. I'm 5'8", always rushed, so he gave me lots of hope.

      Thanks Barry, We love ya.

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      Matt 7 years ago

      Every game was a highlight reel, but because it was Detroit, you didn't see most of it. Everyone can argue "the greatest," but there is no denying that the guy was nothing less than electric. You got a feeling (stomach churning if you were a fan of the other team) of danger every time he touched the ball. The hair on you neck raised, and you scooted to the end of your chair, waiting for it. Imagine even how history could have changed if he had stayed for his senior year...

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      Mike Forler, Tulsa 8 years ago

      I'm with Bob on this one. Check Barry's 'yards at first contact' in comparison to that of Enmity Smith. Then check yards after first contact. You give Barry Dallas' O line from the early 90s and it would be ridiculous. Every game would have been a highlight reel.

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      Ryan 8 years ago

      miss watching Barry Sanders!!

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      Billy 8 years ago

      My favorite football player of all-time.Retired young and never looked back.I resect that.

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      Dr. Curtis R. Kuhn 8 years ago

      I am trying to reach Barry Sanders as his Mother and Sisters make up the Paradise Baptist Choir, who sang on our record "JOIN HANDS" in 1991. This song was written for Governor Finney's anti-drug campaign. I promised Mrs. Sanders that one day when I did another national talk show tour, we would all do that song LIVE on tv. Well, that day has almost arrived. If you could have Barry or his mother contact me I would greatly appreciate it. My phone # is 702-238-4777, although I have recently moved back to Pratt, Kansas. A music video of my song is on my page, "Dr. Kuhn," on my web site.

      Thanking you in advance,


      Curtis R. Kuhn

      C.M.T. - E.L.A.

      A.A., B.S., M.S., Ph. D.

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      Bill 8 years ago

      I need snow

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      Sam 8 years ago

      Barry Sanders was the best and if he did not stop playing ball he would have all the RB records out there. THE BEST!

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      Mike Farley 8 years ago

      excellent comment Bob!

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      bob  8 years ago

      Bo Jackson is hands down, pound for pound the best running back ever. He did not accomplish stats due to natural problems beyond any humans control. Barry was the best player who ever played over a whole career. Better than Brown, Payton and definitely Emmit Smith. I would have like to have seen Barry Sanders with one of Emmit's O-lines for one year. Oh yeah and put Emmit with Barry's. Get the point. Bo rocked, but Barry was the whole package.

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      Grant 8 years ago

      Barry Sanders was by far the most impressive running back to watch in the NFL when I was growing up as a kid. He is the best runningback in the world by far and probably doesn't as much noteriety or credit as Emmitt Smith did. Barry is a very rare breed of running back that can change the game like he did with his finesse during his tenure in the NFL. Barry Sanders I wish you a great retirement after all your years in the NFL, and blessings to you and your family for years to come.

      PS: I would like to see you be a sports commentator or be a sports analyses

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      CHANGA88 8 years ago

      barry sanders is great but WALTER PAYTON IS THE REAL GREATEST

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      stephen corbitt 9 years ago

      Dear Barry Sanders,

      You are a class act and the number one running back to ever play period. I missed you when you left the game but I understood. Tell Byron to call his old friend Stephen in Detroit at 313-457-3403.

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      jeff 9 years ago

      Barry Sanders bar none is the greatest running back of our time!

      The most professional and humble player ever to grace any football field anywhere. His Stunning ability to make defenders look silly will live in infamy.

      Good luck to Barry and his family in all that they do.

      You will find no more of a class act than this man. Tina Turner said it best "Simply the best"

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      Geoff Harrington 10 years ago

      Great report, thanks. Barry got this Englishman interested in football to the point that I am a diehard Lions fan now. All the best in your retirement Barry!

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      Dajon  10 years ago


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      football fan 10 years ago

      I truly wish Barry did not leave. He would hold the record for most yardage. Those close to Barry's family will tell you a different story. Similar to the control of the Venus/Serena Williams' father, Barry's father had complete control of the situation. He was documented during the time that Barry wanted more money. His dad was in the mix and said fine, give him more or we're gone. Barry retired.

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      zack brown 10 years ago

      barry come and be a coach at fremont because we need one bad

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      Paul Edmondson 10 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      This is a great post. Outside of Sandy Kofax, I can't remember a player in their prime retiring so early....He was the greatest.