When it comes to football legends, Barry Sanders stands head and shoulders above many. On Saturday, the Detroit Lions are ensuring the 5-8 running back stands tall for all to see.
Celebrating A Detroit Lions Legend
For Detroit Lions fans, seeing Barry Sanders’ jersey retired was a significant moment, but now they will have an even larger reminder of the player’s greatness: an eight-foot tall bronze statue. Erected in honor of arguably the greatest running back in NFL history, this statue isn’t just a monument—it’s a tribute to a legacy.
The statue will be unveiled in a private ceremony outside of Ford Field on Saturday evening, one day before the Lions much anticipated home opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
Recalling the announcement, Sanders shared his surprise and gratitude. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it and understand it,” he told Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com. “It is pretty awesome. It’s something that is so just unique and something I never really imagined.”
Drafted third overall out of Oklahoma State in 1989, Sanders’ accolades are legendary. From being named MVP of the 1997 season to holding the record for most 1,500-yard rushing seasons, Sanders’ impact on the NFL is undeniable. After a stellar career, his surprise retirement at age 30 left the city in shock. Yet, his mark on the sport remains indelible.
“It’s a tremendous, tremendous honor,” Sanders expressed to Kyle Meinke of the MLive. Reflecting on his journey to Detroit and his aspirations to change the team’s narrative, Sanders reminisced, “I think the slogan was ‘Restore The Roar.’ For me, it was about taking care of business on the field.”
A Presence Beyond The Field
Though his playing days are behind him, Sanders’ involvement with the Lions continues. Serving as a brand ambassador, he’s frequently present at team practices and events. Sanders even teamed up with Calvin Johnson this year to welcome the Lions’ newest first-round picks, Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell, to Detroit.
Yet, the significance of his statue’s unveiling ahead of a promising season for the Lions isn’t lost on Sanders. Drawing parallels to his earlier playing days, he notes, “This is one of the years you have to say where the Lions are looked at as the favorite, and how many years has it been since that was the case.”
Why did Barry Sanders retire?
The sudden nature of Sanders’ retirement has long been a topic of speculation. However, fans might soon have answers. Sanders recently revealed a documentary, produced in collaboration with Amazon, set to shed light on his decision to leave the sport. Teasers hint at insights from notable figures like Jeff Daniels and Jemele Hill, culminating in Sanders himself addressing the burning question.
Jalen Rose, former Detroit Pistons player, didn’t hold back in his praise, saying, “Barry Sanders deserves to be immortalized. Congratulations on getting a statue in the city of Detroit… We love you. We appreciate you. Congratulations Barry.” Joe Dumars, another Pistons legend, echoed the sentiment, “No one deserves it more than Barry. He’s the best running back ever.”
Barry’s Bronze in Detroit
As the bronze likeness of Barry Sanders takes its place in Detroit, it stands as a testament to a player whose impact transcends the game. Whether on the field or off, Sanders’ legacy in the NFL and within the hearts of Lions fans is immortal. With the documentary on the horizon, fans have even more to look forward to, as the man behind the legend reveals his truth.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press