Barry Sanders Biography

American fooball player Barry Sanders became known for his ability to shift directions abruptly while running at top speed. He is shown here as a member of the Detroit Lions, making a cut during a game against the Washington Redskins.

Barry Sanders, born in 1968, American professional football player, an outstanding running back for the Detroit Lions in the National Football League (NFL). He became noted for his quickness, strength, and exceptional ability to change directions while running at top speed. The determined and hard-working back was the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in ten consecutive seasons.

Barry David Sanders was born in Wichita, Kansas, and educated at Oklahoma State University. In 1988, his junior season at Oklahoma State, he set numerous National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) records. They included scoring 37 touchdowns on the ground, rushing for 2,628 yards, and gaining 3,250 all-purpose yards (yards gained from rushing, pass receptions, and kickoff and punt returns). For his accomplishments that season Sanders won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and the Walter Camp Award as college football's best player.

After the 1988 season Oklahoma State was placed on probation for violating various NCAA regulations, and Sanders requested permission to enter the NFL draft instead of completing his senior year. The request was granted, and he was selected by the Lions in the first round of the 1989 draft. Although some speculated that Sanders, at 5 ft 8 in (172 cm) and 200 lb (90 kg), might be too small to play on the professional level, he made an immediate impact. During the 1989 season he rushed for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns and earned the NFL's rookie of the year award.

Sanders became one of the best running backs in the league over the next few years, leading the NFL in rushing in 1990 (1,304 yards) and 1994 (1,883 yards). In 1995, after 103 games, he surpassed 10,000 rushing yards for his career. Only two players, Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown, reached 10,000 rushing yards in fewer games. Sanders won another rushing title after he ran for 1,553 yards in 1996. He topped that effort a year later by amassing an NFL-leading 2,053 yards and becoming only the third player in league history to run for more than 2,000 yards during a single season. (The others were Dickerson and O. J. Simpson.)

After the 1998 season Sanders announced that he was retiring from football. The decision surprised many people because Sanders had a good chance to break the career record for total rushing yards held by Walter Payton, who amassed 16,726 yards over 13 NFL seasons.

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