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Barry Sanders Biography

Born In Wichita, Kansas, Chronology, Football's Demands Hamper Studies, Career Statistics


American football player

One of football's greatest running backs of all time, Barry Sanders is a bundle of contradictions. His sudden departure from professional football in the summer of 1999 still has observers scratching their heads. He left the game less than 1,500 yards short of eclipsing the career rushing yardage of the late Walter Payton. (As of late October 2002, Sanders, with a total of 15,269 yards, fell to third leading all-time rusher when Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith surpassed Payton's 16,726 career yards by piling up 16,743 yards.) Although Sanders was clearly one of pro foot-ball's biggest stars, he never acted the part, preferring to take a low profile. He lived in a simple home and showed little interest in either flashy clothes or high-powered cars. A man of great wealth, he nevertheless displayed a frugality more suited to a pensioner on a limited budget, taking his dirty clothes to a coin laundry rather than entrusting them to his vacation hotel's high-price dry cleaning service.

During the decade he played for the Detroit Lions, the media almost always found him willing to talk about his team, but he never seemed particularly comfortable

Barry Sanders

discussing his own accomplishments. In a way, Sanders always seemed to get a certain degree of satisfaction from being a bit of a mystery. That enigmatic quality mirrored in many ways his magic on the gridiron—the ability to confound the opposing team with his very unpredictability. Even Sanders found it difficult—if not impossible—to describe his running style, but he was clear enough about what it was that kept him fired up on the football field. "I love competing," he told Paul Attner of Sports Illustrated late in his career. "If I wasn't playing, I'd be going to a gym somewhere and getting up a game of five-on-five. That's one of the simple things I enjoy doing…. The biggest joy is that I am stillplaying the game I have been playing since I was a kidand enjoying it more than I ever have."

Sketch by Don Amerman

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Famous Sports StarsFootball