Why? If you could define Barry Sanders with one word it wouldn’t be spectacular, breathtaking, or greatest. The word most people associate with the hall of fame running back is why. In 1999 Barry Sanders walked away from the game of football. Even to this day we can’t solve the mystery of why the best player in the NFL retired in the prime of his career? Why would he retire within striking distance of Walter Payton’s all time rushing record? His retirement became one of the greatest conspiracy theories in sports. Did he retire to not pass Payton’s record? Was he sick of losing in Detroit and had a fallout with management? Nobody knows. Maybe we can’t stop talking about Barry Sanders because we always wonder what could have been? What if he hadn’t retired? What more could he have accomplished? Football fans, especially those in Detroit, can only dream if Barry Sanders continued playing. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when Sanders would become the all-time rusher. Sorry Emmit Smith, if Barry hadn’t called it quits you would never have been the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. Lions fans wonder if Barry Sanders had kept playing could they have made
a quicker return trip to the playoffs and prevent the franchise from its downward spiral of the next decade. However, I think what we all missed were those breathtaking runs. Words cannot fully capture the beauty of a Sanders run. The blue of number 20 darting and cutting between defenders and afterward you kept asking, how did he do that? When you watched him break off an incredible run that just made you say wow, and you knew you were witnessing the best back in football. That’s what I wish I could have seen. Sanders was just before my time and just watching his highlights cannot do any of his runs justice. If Sanders had continued how many yards and touchdowns could he have had? Would he have been the reason for the Lions making a turnaround and finally making the Super Bowl? We can only just imagine. For most greats you can see that someone could eventually come along and be just as good if not better. Not Barry Sanders. I can’t see anyone coming along and being better than Barry. Sure Adrian Peterson is a great physical back, but Barry’s runs were one of a kind. That’s why I think fans have a hard time accepting his retirement. Do I give Sanders a lot of credit for retiring, of course. It takes guts to retire at your peak and knowing that people will be critical. People just wanted to see more of those big runs and plays that none else could manifest. While he may have gotten heat for retiring, Sanders still is highly respected and loved by fans. Don’t believe me? Just pick up Madden 25 when it comes out. Who did the people want? Two words, Barry Sanders.