Where Are They Now Barry Sanders
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.