Barry Sanders was born July 16, 1968 in Wichita, Kansas. He is one of 11 children born to William and Shirley Sanders, to whom he attributes his quiet, humble nature. Following the lead of his older brothers, Barry began playing football at a young age, often times in the fields surrounding his Kansas home. His talent was evident as early on as his pop warner years. Barry attended Wichita North High School and played back up tailback for the varsity team behind his brother, Byron. It was not until the fourth game of his senior season that he was moved over to the running back position that he is known for today. His 1,000+ yard season earned him all-state honors, however he received only four scholarship offers, including one from Oklahoma State University.
Oklahoma State University
In 1986, Barry enrolled at Oklahoma State University. He backed up Thurman Thomas for his first two years, leading the nation in yards per kick-off return, but his junior season was all it took to gain national attention. His 1988 season is widely regarded as one of the greatest single seasons in college football history. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game and set 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. At the end of the season, was awarded the 1988 Heisman Trophy and declared for the NFL Draft.
Barry was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 3rd overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. He played 10 All Pro seasons in the NFL, all for the Lions, averaging over 1,500 rushing yards per season. He won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1997, rushing for 2,053 yards and 11 touchdowns that year. Barry left the game just 1,457 yards short of being first place on the list for the NFL all-time rushing record at that time. He still holds over 10 NFL records, including most consecutive seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards, most consecutive games with 100+ yards, and most seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards (tied).
Life After Football
Barry was inducted to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2019, he was named to the NFL All-Time Time as one of the great 100 players of all-time. The following year, he was listed at number nine on the College Football 150 Greatest Players list.
Barry is enjoying his retirement by spending time with his three sons, Barry J Nigel, Nick and Noah. Barry J played football at Stanford and Oklahoma State and now works for EA Sports, Nigel is a music producer, and Nick and Noah are students.