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Barry Sanders

Related Biography: Coach Wayne Fontes

Leo Durocher claimed that nice guys finish last. Wayne Fontes, longtime coach of the Detroit Lions, proved him wrong. In the high point of his eight years at the helm of the Lions, Fontes earned the Associated Press' NFL Coach of the Year honors in 1991 after leading Detroit to the NFC championship game. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Lions, however, was his insistence that the team draft Barry Sanders in 1989. Sanders went on to become one of the top running backs in NFL history, and he's never forgotten Fontes's guidance and support, crediting the coach for making him the player he eventually became.

The son of Portuguese-American parents, Fontes was born and raised in Canton, Ohio. He played baseball and football during his student years at Michigan State University (MSU) and later coached freshman football at MSU. After coaching assignments at Dayton, Iowa, and USC, Fontes in 1985 joined the Lions organization as defensive coordinator. He was made head coach in 1988 and remained in that post until he and his coaching staff were let go during the 1997 season.

In the mid-1990s, as the Lions hit a slump and anti-Fontes sentiment grew among Lions team members, Sanders remained a staunch supporter of the coach. Of the coach, Sanders said: "He proves that a coach can show affection and appreciation and still win."

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Famous Sports StarsFootballBarry Sanders Biography - Born In Wichita, Kansas, Chronology, Football's Demands Hamper Studies, Career Statistics