For as quiet and reserved as Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, one of the greatest tailbacks to ever touch a football, has been, his father was pretty much the opposite. Always colorful with a quip at the ready, William Sanders added plenty of flavor to his son’s pro career.
William Sanders died earlier today at age 74, due to complications of lymphoma.
When Barry was inducted into the Hall of Fame, William Sanders said that Jim Brown, not Barry Sanders, was the greatest running back of all time. And William Sanders ultimately put his son at No. 3, behind Brown and William Sanders.
Via NewsOK.com, Barry Sanders credited his father on that day in 2004 for some very good advice regarding the right way to play the game, when Barry was in high school.
“I can think of the day that I learned a precious lesson from him,” Barry Sander said. “My sophomore year in high school, I was fortunate enough to be on the junior varsity and played a little bit of cornerback and was the kick return guy, punts and kickoffs. We were a little bit outside of our town, Wichita, playing against a team. And it was a very close game and the fourth quarter came, and I don’t remember whether we were up a little bit or down. But the fourth quarter came and it was close and I was in there catching the kicks, and I wouldn’t run up and catch the ball. I wouldn’t run up and catch the punts. I don’t remember whether we won or lost.
”After the game on the ride home, my dad asked me . . . because it was sort of unusual, he never said anything about what I should do on the field, he saved his advice for off the field, and trust me, he had plenty of advice for that. He asked me, ‘Barry, why weren’t you catching the punts?’ And I was like, ‘Well, daddy, it was a close game, and I didn’t want to run up and drop the punt and cause us to lose the game.’ He said, ‘Son, you can play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. In life you’re going to make some mistakes. Even if you wanted to stay in bed all day and avoid the world, that’s not the answer, especially in the game of football. You’re going to make some mistakes. Go out and play the way you’re capable of, the coach has you in there for a reason, he has confidence in you.’
“That was some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten, because as a player you want to do everything right and sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. . . . And I can credit William Sanders for that great lesson that allowed me to be a great player, to be here today.”
We extend our condolences to Barry Sanders and his family.