If you are a fan of the Detroit Lions you likely agree with me that Barry Sanders is the greatest running back ever to play in the NFL. But why did he retire when he seemed to be in the prime of his career?
Lions president Tom Lewand was asked at a “Man Up” event at Kensington Church to shed some light on the real reason why Sanders retired when he did.
“Great, great story on Barry and what a humble guy he is,” Lewand said. “He had a holdout in 1997, we got him signed, we were out at the Silverdome, we both go up to training camp which at the time was at Saginaw Valley, and he signed literally the richest contract in the NFL at that point.
“At Saginaw, we both end up pulling into the parking lot at the same time. He says, ‘Tom, come over and check my new ride. I rewarded myself with a new car.’ I go over, it’s a black Jaguar, and I look in, I peek in the window, I go, ‘Barry, this car has 38,000 miles on it.’ He said, ‘I know, I got a great deal.'”
“A little bit of that (story) reveals I think his decision,” Lewand said. “He knew that football, it wasn’t his identity. It was more than just football, it was being a father, it was being a man of the community, he is a man of faith as well. But for him it was more than just football, and I think for him, that combined with some of the things that were happening with the offense and things that were happening football wise, and then I think his own body, he knew his body better than anybody.
“Those who have a better football eye than I do would pick up on some subtle things his last year that would suggest he might be slowing down just a tick as he was hitting his 30s and maybe the combination of those things. But he’s a guy who’s been a part of the program with us now. We have a great relationship with him and he’s definitely at peace with the decision.”
Even though Sanders retired far before anyone would have liked, he showed the world time and time again why he was the best running back ever to play the game of football.
As a long time fan of the Detroit Lions, I feel lucky to have watched Barry play up close and personal and will always have the memories.