Barry Sanders confirmed as OSU homecoming grand marshal

Barry Sanders confirmed as OSU homecoming grand marshal

In August 1998, at Detroit Lions training camp in Saginaw, Michigan, there was a memorable afternoon that included a fairly lengthy Q&A with Barry Sanders — a man who more typically was as elusive with the media as he was when carrying a football.

Sanders didn’t like interviews when he was Oklahoma State’s 1988 Heisman Trophy phenom or when he was pro football’s best back in 1989-98.

That’s why there was such value in that trip to Saginaw 20 years ago. Sanders did more than just accommodate the Tulsa World’s interview request. Only a few months after his pinnacle season — his 2,053-yard rushing total in 1997 — he was generous with his time and provided fascinating insight.

Among his quotes was this: “I should be more involved in what’s going on at Oklahoma State. I don’t give as much time back as I used to because I don’t know as many people there. But I need to. Every offseason, I say, ‘Man, I need to get back to Oklahoma State,’ and then the offseason shoots past and I never get the chance.”

On Tuesday, it was announced by the Oklahoma State Alumni Association that Sanders again will be involved in what’s going on at OSU. He is notorious for his avoidance of the public spotlight, but after months of efforting by OSU officials, Sanders has agreed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his Heisman season by serving as the university’s homecoming grand marshal.

It had to be Sanders, of course. In 2018, no one else would make sense.

In a statement provided to the Tulsa World, Sanders is quoted as saying that the 1988 season “was such a special year for OSU football. The fact that I get to celebrate the 30th anniversary at homecoming with my coaches, teammates and, of course, our fans, is very special to me.”

Orchestrated by the Alumni Association, homecoming weekend always is a major party at Oklahoma State. With the involvement of Sanders, OSU achieves the maximum level of significance.

“Barry Sanders is a true icon of Oklahoma State,” said Larry Reece, an OSU senior associate athletic director and the public-address announcer at Boone Pickens Stadium and Gallagher-Iba Arena. “The process did take some time, but I wasn’t nervous. I have a good relationship with Barry and with his agent, so I was confident we’d make this happen.”

A bonus: Sanders will be joined that weekend by each of his 1988 offensive linemen. Nicknamed the War Pigs, that group was made up of five seniors: Mike Wolfe, Chris Stanley, John Boisvert, Jason Kidder and Byron Woodard.

“When we had the idea of involving the War Pigs, that just sealed the deal for Barry,” Reece said. “When I’ve talked with those offensive linemen, they all said the same thing: ‘I can’t believe it’s been 30 years.’ ”

On Oct. 26, during the annual Homecoming and Hoops basketball event, the 50-year-old Sanders will make an appearance at Gallagher-Iba Arena. During the morning of Oct. 27, he will be the grand marshal of OSU’s parade.

Later that day, as the Cowboy football team hosts Texas in a Big 12 game, Sanders and his War Pigs will be recognized during a ceremony at field level. Mike Gundy quarterbacked those ’88 Cowboys, who finished 10-2.

In 2009, to coincide with their induction into the OSU Hall of Fame, the grand marshals were Sanders, Garth Brooks and Robin Ventura. This year, it was overwhelmingly obvious to university officials that Sanders should be the grand marshal.

During a 12-game season in 1988, Sanders shattered the national rushing record. He ran for 2,850 yards and scored 44 touchdowns. In 2014, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards, and that’s a fantastic number, but he did it in 14 games.

Sanders’ performance remains the greatest ever by a college running back, and perhaps the greatest by any player at any position. It should be remembered, also, that in 1988, he did not play in the fourth quarter of several games. He wound up with a per-carry average of 7.6 yards. With only 20 additional carries, he would have rushed for 3,000 yards.

During his Tulsa World interview 20 years ago, Sanders said, “When I get back to Stillwater, there might be a couple of people who remember me and welcome me.”

The greatest Cowboy might be a little overwhelmed by the remembering and welcoming he’ll experience on Oct. 26-27. During a typical homecoming Friday night, 80,000 people are on the Oklahoma State campus.

    Source: OSU Sports World | Bill Haisten | Aug 14, 2018



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