Another Special Life in Christ
These testimony lives are not stories of "role models". Jesus is the
These are lives wonderfully touched & changed by Jesus!
Around mid-November 2003, I saw a highly
advertised Mike Wallace interview of "LT", the spectacular NFL football defensive
player, Lawrence Taylor...and his tragic experiences handling fame and millions of dollars. A
few nights later, Bill O'Reilly interviewed Barry Sanders in view of Barry's retirement and
then turning down $20 million for a one more year contract. Although it never came out in the
interview...Barry attributed his settled and non-ruinous life course to the influence of his
father & mother..., I thought to myself, "I'll bet he is a Christian." So, so far, it
sounds like Barry was raised a Christian and became a believer at a young
By Bernard Moon, November 30,
He's the Greatest Running Back in My
I guess it's sports day on my blog. Ali article
and now a Barry Sanders interview that I came across on my AOL service. If they start getting
exclusives like this, it's definitely going to help their transition into being a broadband
Anyway, I've always had so much respect for Barry
Sanders as an athlete and a Christian. Like David Robinson, he is a model of humility and
achievements that I can only hope to emulate. In terms of his greatness, I believe he was the
greatest running back of all time, which is difficult for a Chicagoan to state since Walter
Payton will always be part of my soul. Last year, ESPN polled their NFL analyst on who they
thought were the top 10 running backs of all-time. Many of them ranked Sanders 3rd or 4th on
their list (couldn't find the link). I understand that they really can't make decisions on
'what-ifs', but it's truly a shame that Sanders was partially handicapped because of his
surrounding elements. He played on Detroit Lions teams who consistently had horrible
offensive lines and a management that did very little to improve the situation. He retired
early at the top of his game when he could have easily stay one more year to break Walter
Payton's record, but those types of accolades were not his
I know every football fan has talked about it at
least once with someone how awesome or well Sanders would have done on a team with a decent
offensive line. And if Sanders played with the huge Cowboy's offensive line that Smith
benefited from all those years... 2,500 yards? Maybe 3,000 yards? No problem. Amazing... I'm
still picturing all those highlights and moves. All those missed tackles, starting and
stopping on a dime, or head-on collisions with only Barry standing up in the end. Sometimes
it seemed like a game of smear-the-queer on the field with 11 grown men trying to tackle
little Barry Sanders... grade school all over again but with someone that nobody could
Running Into Greatness
November, 25 2003
It’s difficult to be objective when the running
back you’re trying to be objective about is your son, but William Sanders, father of Barry
Sanders, tried to keep his head about him when it came to evaluating the great running backs
of the NFL.
"Among all the runners to play the game," William
Sanders used to say, to Barry and anyone who would listen, "Jim Brown was a man among
William had seen his son win the Heisman Trophy at
Oklahoma State in 1988, and had seen him chosen by the Detroit Lions with the third selection
of the 1989 NFL draft. The father had also seen his son win Rookie of the Year honors in his
first season, and had seen him dazzle the game with moves so breathtaking they made grown men
sit up and cry out in disbelief. But the old man continued to tell the young man that the
bigger player (Brown was 6-foot-2, 230) from three decades before was a better player than
the smaller player (Barry was 5-8, 200) from the 1990s.
Until 1997. Until the magic and derring-do of one
of the greatest NFL seasons any individual player ever has had. Until Barry Sanders gained
2,053 yards, finishing the year with a record 14 consecutive 100-yard
Then William Sanders told people that his son was
the greatest running back of all-time.
“He never told me then,” Barry says. “He told
other people. He told me later.”
In the ongoing Cinderfella debate over which great
back’s foot fits the glass running shoe best, a lot of insiders would side with William
Sanders, post 1997.
Without much argument, the customers to get their
numbers called first in the shoe store would be Sanders, Brown, Walter Payton, and Emmitt
Smith. And if the shoe didn’t fit -- and it’s highly unlikely that it wouldn’t, don’t you
think? -- Eric Dickerson, O. J. Simpson, and Gale Sayers would be next up.
If Sanders had not done something in 1999 -- if he
had not chosen to walk away from the game at age 30, after 10 seasons -- the argument
probably would be a moot one.
In his tenth season, Sanders had gained 1,491
yards, increasing his career total to 15,269, an average of 1,527 per year. His poorest
season had been 1993 when he missed the last five games with a torn medial collateral
ligament in his right knee and still finished fifth in the NFL with 1,115 yards (and that was
the only significant injury of his decade in the NFL).
At the dawn of the 1999 season, Sanders needed
only -- for him -- 1,458 yards to pass Payton and become the greatest running back,
numerically, in pro football history. He needed only -- for him -- say, three "average"
seasons to set the rushing record bar so high no one ever could reach it. (If Sanders had put
together three of his average years he would have reached 19,850 yards in 13 years; Smith,
still active with Arizona, has the current career No. 1 -- 17,354 yards in 14
But strange as this sounds, Sanders didn’t care
about records... or, more specifically, about breaking records. He didn’t need to break
Payton’s record to feel fulfilled. In fact, he felt that Payton’s record had a certain
sanctity to it and that his walking away from the game respected the sanctity of the record
held by the man everyone called Sweetness.
For the first time publicly, Sanders talks about
the act that stunned the world of sport in a new book, Now You See Him…Barry Sanders’ Story
in His Own Words.
In the book, co-written with Oklahoma writer Mark
McCormack, Sanders writes:
"I’ve never been fond of public attention or a lot
of dealing with the media. I don’t mean to sound aloof; being in the spotlight just isn’t in
my nature… I never valued [the record] so much that I thought it was worth my dignity or
Walter’s dignity to pursue it amid so much media and marketing attention."
Should we have been surprised then? Should we be
surprised now? Probably not. This is a man who always has called his own signals... and
always and consistently could care less how those about him perceived those
-- On the eve of the Heisman Trophy ceremonies in
New York in December 1988, he told friends that he wasn’t going. They told him he had to. He
listened and went... and won. Later, he passed on invitations to visit the White House. And
when his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, honored him with a two-day celebration he arrived
home... a day late.
-- He quietly gave one-tenth of his
signing bonus of $2.1 million to the Paradise Baptist Church in Wichita. “Because the Bible
says you should tithe,” he said. He continued to give 10 percent of his annual salary to
charity throughout his career. (He is deeply but quietly religious, a product of his
-- In 1989, he was the runaway NFL Rookie of the
Year with 1,470 yards, a 5.3 average, and 14 touchdowns. He also could have been the NFL
rushing leader. He stopped short of the achievement in the final minutes of the last game of
the season, declining to play against Atlanta even though he needed only 11 yards to pass
Kansas City’s Christian Okoye. "We had the game won," he said then, "and that was the only
objective. There was no need for me to go back in to get a personal achievement. What
difference would it have made?" (Déjà vu?)
In Now You See Him..., Sanders confesses to a wide
range of human emotions, including something football people (well, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil
excepted) rarely reveal: tears. After what would be his last game, against the Ravens in
1998, he writes, he sat weeping at his locker after a 19-10 loss closed a 5-11
-- In May 2003, Sanders was to have been one of
seven inductees into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in elaborate ceremonies before nearly
800 people at Ford Field. He didn’t show. Instead his wife of three years, former Detroit TV
news anchor Lauren Campbell Sanders, accepted the award. Barry was detained in Oklahoma City
on banking business (he was the major stockholder in American State Bank). "I’m sorry about
it," Campbell Sanders said. "I know the fans want him to be more of a presence but part of
that is just his style."
In a telephone call to me arranged by his agent,
Jeff (J. B.) Bernstein, Sanders admitted that he has watched more college games than pro
games in the five years he has been away from the game, and that he has not been to a Lions
game since he left as a player in 1998.
"I still might go to a Lions game this year,
though," he said. "For sure, I’m going to be in Ford Field on [Tuesday] Dec. 2 for a press
conference about the book. Matt Millen [Lions’ president and CEO] has been great at trying to
patch things up between me and the club."
The ultimate healing would be if the Lions retired
Sanders’ No. 20 jersey. "That’s being talked about for next season," Sanders
Fifteen pounds under his playing weight at a fit
185 and still only 35 (he’s six years younger than Jerry Rice and 10 months older than Emmitt
Smith), Sanders will be a Hall of Fame shoo-in in January.
And in February, his second child with Campbell
Sanders will be born. The residents of Rochester Hills, a Detroit suburb, have a son, Nigel,
2. Sanders also has another son from a previous relationship, Barry, Jr., 9, in Oklahoma
Barry Sanders has no second thoughts about his
decision to leave the game -- or about the stealthy way he did it (he announced it in a note
to the Wichita Eagle on July 27, 1999 without talking to the Lions) -- but he does regret the
fact that he and the Lions had so little team success during his decade there. In the book,
he is candid about what he believes are management failures in retaining key players and
building team cohesiveness.
From 1989-1998, the Lions lost four more games
than they won, had winning records five times and losing records five times, including three
5-11 seasons. They won only one postseason game, in 1991 following a 12-4 year, but lost to
Washington 41-10 in the NFC championship game.
In a remarkable bit of prescience, I came across
this excerpt in a story that was written by Curt Sylvester for a national magazine following
Sanders’ standout first season in 1989:
"When Sanders eventually retires from football,
his goal, he says, is not to be remembered as the NFL’s all-time leading
"'It is to be a part, along with all the other
guys, of turning the team around and making it a winner,’ he said. ‘Just being a natural
competitor you want to win. The Lions have been notorious for losing. I think it would be
nice to have notoriety for winning and maybe even go the Super Bowl in the next 10 years or
So add ‘em up for Barry Sanders -- the 15,269
yards, the 5.0 average (second only to Jim Brown’s 5.2), the 109 touchdowns (after every one
of which he simply handed the ball to an official), the 10 Pro Bowl selections, the four
rushing titles (and three second-place finishes), the 76 100-yard games, the Rookie of the
Year award in ’89, the Player of the Year honor in ’97 -- and, for him, it still comes down
to 0 for 10 in the Motor City.
Add ‘em all up for the rest of us, though… and
he’s a highlight film we can watch for eternity.
John Wiebusch was Editor in Chief of NFL
publications for 32 years. The editor of NFL Insider, GameDay, PRO! magazines and the Super
Bowl Game Program, he has edited.
***give me your comments about this
(posted 7 December 2003)
You have just read a very brief example of the
powerful, supernatural transformation of a person's life which is possible through the
acceptance of Jesus as your savior. Are you tired of life as it now is for you? He will
accept you just as you are right this second! Consider accepting Jesus now