Barry Sanders (born July 16, 1968) is an American former professional football player who was a running back for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). A Pro Bowl invitee in each of his ten NFL seasons and two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Sanders led the league in rushing yards four times and established himself as one of the most elusive runners in pro football with his quickness and agility. In 2007, he was ranked by NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 series as the most elusive runner in NFL history, and also topped its list of greatest players never to play in a Super Bowl. He is often regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Sanders played college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys football team, where, as a junior in 1988 he compiled what is considered one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history, rushing for 2,850 yards and 42 touchdowns in 12 games. He was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college player in the nation and was unanimously recognized as an All-American. Sanders was first inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He then was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and in that same year inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Sanders joined the Lions in 1989 and had an immediate impact, winning the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award. Through ten seasons in Detroit, he averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season and just under 100 rushing yards per game. In 1997, he became the third player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. Still seemingly in his prime, Sanders unexpectedly retired from football after the 1998 season, 1,457 yards short of breaking the then NFL’s all-time rushing record. His number 20 jersey was retired by the Lions, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. A year later Sanders was also inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame along with fellow pro and college football hall of famer Thurman Thomas.