Run Barry, Run

Updated: August 16, 2004, 8:55 AM ET
By Fred W. Kiger | Special to ESPN.com

Signature Game
Oct. 12, 1997 - Detroit Lions coach Bobby Ross was committed to running Barry Sanders. Tampa Bay committed its defense to stopping the star running back and in their previous meeting five weeks earlier the Bucs had held him to only 20 yards. Also, the game in Tampa was played on grass, where Sanders was supposedly suspect.

Sanders responded to the challenge by becoming the only player in NFL history to score two touchdowns on runs of at least 80 yards. In the first quarter, he scampered for an 80-yard score and in the third period he broke free for an 82-yard touchdown in the Lions' 27-9 victory.Sanders responded to the challenge by becoming the only player in NFL history to score two touchdowns on runs of at least 80 yards. In the first quarter, he scampered for an 80-yard score and in the third period he broke free for an 82-yard touchdown in the Lions' 27-9 victory.

In running for 215 yards, one of four times he ran for at least 200 yards in his career, Sanders moved past Jim Brown for fourth place on the all-time rushing list with 12,513 yards. He also scored the game's final touchdown on a seven-yard reception with 6:23 left in the contest.

As Sanders left the locker room, a reporter asked him - half kidding - about the suggestion that he is not effective running on a grass field. "I know that," Sanders said with a grin. "But I'm still learning."

Odds 'N' Ends

  • Though relatively small in stature by NFL standards, Sanders loves to eat. As a child his family nicknamed him "Scavenger."

  • As a fourth grader, Sanders played in his first football game. On his first touch he scored on a 70-yard sweep.

  • Ten of William and Shirley Sanders' 11 children have college degrees.

  • Sanders played cornerback and wingback for North High School in Wichita, Kans., until his senior year.

  • When the regular tailback was suspended for disciplinary reasons. Sanders took his place and gained a school-record 274 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Shirley Sanders sang in the church choir on Friday nights. That commitment meant she missed many of her children's high school games.

  • Sanders brother Byron played football at Northwestern.

  • Sanders set or tied 24 NCAA marks at Oklahoma State.

  • In three years with the Cowboys, he had 3,797 yards and 55 touchdowns.

  • After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1988, Sanders declined an invitation to the White House with the explanation that he had to study.

  • Sanders sent $210,000 of his $2.1 million signing bonus to his church, Paradise Baptist Church.

  • After breaking Billy Sims' single-season rushing mark for the Lions in his rookie season, Sanders presented each of the offensive linemen a Rolex watch. The gifts were valued at more than $10,000.

  • Minnesota Vikings defenders found Sanders so difficult to tackle in one game that they accused him of spraying himself with silicon. The officials' investigation turned up nothing.

  • While with Detroit, Sanders was known to occasionally fall asleep during film sessions.

  • Sanders rushing yards are all the more amazing when one realizes that for his first eight seasons with the Lions, coach Wayne Fontes rarely used a fullback or blocking back.

  • While in London for an exhibition game, Sanders was the only Lion who waited in a 90-minute line to gain entrance to the Hard Rock Café.While in London for an exhibition game, Sanders was the only Lion who waited in a 90-minute line to gain entrance to the Hard Rock Café.

  • Sanders was selected for the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons and played in eight, missing two because of injury.

  • Sanders has contributed to many charities with the mandate that they cannot announce his participation.

  • Sanders' announcement that he was retiring was a simple 17-sentence statement and was released July 28, 1999 in his hometown paper, The Wichita Eagle.

  • The Lions learned of his decision via The Eagle's web site.

  • From late December 1998 until July 1999, Sanders may have hinted about his upcoming retirement when the running back did not respond to numerous letters and telephone calls from Ross.

  • Aware that Sanders was nearing Walter Payton's all-time career rushing mark, the NFL had slated the 1999 Lions-Broncos game for Christmas Day in a late-afternoon national slot with the anticipation that Payton's record might fall that day.

  • In 1994, Sanders, who had said he believed in celibacy, fathered a son, Barry James, with his girlfriend of six years, Aletha House. Sanders remains a devoted father to his son, who lives with House in Oklahoma City.

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