Born In Wichita, Kansas
He was born Barry James Sanders in Wichita, Kansas, on July 16, 1968. Son of William (a roofer) and Shirley (a registered nurse) Sanders was one of 11 children. While still a boy, Sanders learned the importance—and value—of hard work. As soon as they could handle the tools of the trade, he and his two brothers were pressed into service as roofer's assistants by their father. Of Sanders's boyhood apprenticeship, Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press wrote: "All day they would labor, with the hammers, with the tar, sweating in the hot summer sun. You did not complain in the Sanders family. Not unless you wanted a good whupping."
As a boy, Sanders excelled in all things athletic, but his first love was basketball. His father, however, steered him toward football, believing that his son's chances of winning a college scholarship would be greater on the gridiron than on the basketball court. Although Sanders showed definite promise on the football field, he was stuck on the second string until the last half of his senior year by coaches who felt that his play was hampered by a fear of getting hit. In the last five games of his senior year, Sanders came alive, rushing for more than 1,000 yards, for a total of 1,417 yards for the year—a city-wide record. His coaches—and his opponents—were confounded by his ability to elude tackles. Despite the spectacular finish to his high school football career, only three colleges—the University of Tulsa, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State—offered scholarships to Sanders. He decided on Oklahoma State because of its strong business program.