Barry Sanders is the greatest runner I’ve ever seen live. His creativity and ability was amazing. One time he got trapped seven yards deep in the back field against the New York Giants and somehow turned it into the most amazing one-yard run in NFL history.
He won me over. He could never win over his father William Sanders who told Barry and the entire world that James Brown was the best running back of all time.
“I tell Barry all the time that Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all time,” William Sanders once told me. “Barry is good, but he isn’t Jim Brown.”
Brown won over older black folks because of his bullish ways on the field, but mostly because of his civil rights stances off the field. He wanted more for black America at a time it was really rough for black people. He believed America would be a greater nation if everybody felt included and if everybody had equal footing.
Brown died peacefully at age 87 in his Los Angeles home.
Sanders respected Brown as much as his dad. The two men were exact opposites.
Brown initiated contact. Sanders avoided it.
Teammates begged Sanders to meet with the Ford family to vent frustrations of the players. He refused. Sanders believed his job was to run the football to the best of his abilities and then go home.
Brown put his head down and pushed the pile. Sanders had the pile chasing him all over the field.
Brown got hit. Sanders did not.
Brown spoke out and embraced the spotlight. Barry mostly avoided it.
The one thing the two men had in common is they left fans wanting more when they retired.
Brown left the NFL after nine seasons to pursue an acting career and advocate for civil rights. Sanders also left in his prime after 10 seasons in part because in part he did not like treatment of teammates from management and because he was tired of busting his butt for a losing organization.
Brown rushed for 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns. Barry amassed 15,269 yards on the ground with 99 touchdowns. He never rushed for fewer than 1,300 yards during any given season.
“You can’t underestimate the impact Brown had on the NFL,” Sanders said on Twitter. “He will be greatly missed. Additionally, his generosity and friendship with my family is a gift that we will always cherish.”
For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet
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