Barry J. Sanders, Son of the Lions Great, Never Intended on Playing in the NFL

One thing has to be made immediately clear about Barry Sanders’ son, Barry J. Sanders.

For years, people called the younger Sanders — son of the legendary Detroit Lions running back — Barry Sanders Jr. That name is incorrect and it came from assumptions.

That wasn’t the only assumption involving the son. Contrary to beliefs, the younger Sanders — who played college football a few years ago — never intended to follow his father to the NFL.

Barry J. Sanders played at Stanford and Oklahoma State

A top high school football recruit, Barry J. Sanders signed with Stanford out of high school.

After redshirting in 2012, Sanders picked up 42 rushing yards and a touchdown on five carries in nine games the next season. Sanders also turned four catches into 41 yards.

Sanders picked up 315 yards on 59 attempts in 2015, then had precisely 315 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2015. With the dangerous Christian McCaffrey returning for the 2016 season, Sanders transferred to Oklahoma State as a grad student. Barry Sanders played at Oklahoma State in the 1980s.

The son totaled 93 yards and two touchdowns on 3.3 yards per carry in 13 games.

He is the son of Lions legend Barry Sanders

Defenders who faced Barry Sanders may still see his cuts in their nightmares.

Standing just 5 feet 8 inches, Sanders terrorized the NFL for 10 seasons and retired as one of the league’s greatest running backs.

Sanders totaled 15,269 rushing yards and 99 touchdowns in 153 games for the Lions from 1989-1998. Those numbers amounted to 1,597 yards and 10 touchdowns over a 16-game stretch.

Sanders also turned 352 catches into 2,921 yards and 10 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl every season he played and earned first-team All-Pro honors on six occasions.

In the other four seasons, Sanders appeared on the second-team All-Pro team.

Sanders won the NFL MVP Award in 1997, when he ran for 2,053 yards and 11 touchdowns. Detroit retired Sanders’ No. 20 jersey, and he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

The younger Sanders never intended to play in the NFL


Barry Sanders Isn’t the Only Legendary NFL Running Back to Retire Early

Many legacy athletes, or the sons of former athletes who follow their parents’ footsteps, often try to make it professionally.

The 2020 NFL draft class included several such players. Antoine Winfield Jr. is the Buccaneers’ starting free safety, while Jon Runyan Jr. is the Green Bay Packers’ backup right guard.

Barry J. Sanders never intended to follow his father into the NFL. When Barry Sanders ended his time at Oklahoma State, he went to the NFL.

As for the younger Sanders, he took a job at EA Sports — the video game company that produces the “Madden NFL” games — when he completed college.

In a 2017 interview with The Oklahoman, shortly after he accepted a job with EA, Sanders explained why he was comfortable leaving football behind and not trying to make an NFL team.

“Four out of my five years, I’ve won 10 games. Stuff like that is something I don’t take for granted. The relationships I’ve built, the players I’ve been able to play with and against, it was something truly special. For me, I’ve always had the mindset of preparing for life after football. It just so happened that I decided to pursue that earlier than later.”

According to his LinkedIn, Sanders has worked at EA Sports since April 2017.

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