Shoots For 2,000 Yards A Season
Averaging 4.5 yards per rushing attempt in 1991, Sanders compiled a total of 1,548 yards and scored 16 touchdowns rushing. In 1992 his total rushing yardage slipped 1,352, and he averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. Plagued by injury in 1993, Sanders managed to amass rushing yardage of only 1,115 that season, but pushed his average per rushing attempt to 4.6 yards. Sanders rushed for 1,883 yards during the 1994 season, averaging 5.7 yards per rushing attempt but scoring only seven touchdowns rushing. The next year he averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt for a total of 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. In 1996 Sanders averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt for a total of 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. In 1997 he fulfilled Fontes's prediction, compiling a total of 2,053 yards rushing and averaging a stunning 6.1 yards per rushing attempt. Sanders' rushing yardage slipped just below the 1,500-mark in 1998, but he averaged only 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. At the end of the 1998 season, Sanders had a career total of 15,269, trailing the career record of 16,726 set by Walter Payton by only 1,457 yards. Then, to the surprise of almost everyone, Sanders announced his retirement from football shortly before he was to report to the Lions' training camp for the 1999 season. In his announcement, Sanders said: "The reason I am retiring is simple: My desire to exit the game is greater than my desire to remain in it. I have searched my heart through and through and feel comfortable with this decision."
There seems little doubt that Sanders could have easily surpassed Payton's rushing record if he'd stayed in football, but that was not the path he chose to take. How far he might have gone is anybody's guess. But his career is no less spectacular for the absence of the rushing crown. Paul Attner of the Sporting News summed up Barry Sanders's career: "He gave us a style unlike any we had ever witnessed.… We will miss his grace under extreme pressure, his sportsmanship, the way he conducted himself as a marvelous onfield role model in an era stained by boorish stars.… His classy behavior combined to make him one of the league's most popular players."
- Barry Sanders - Awards And Accomplishments
- Barry Sanders - Related Biography: Coach Wayne Fontes
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