The feeling around running backs in the NFL has drastically changed over the last couple of years. A position that many organizations feel like is a “dime a dozen,” was once looked at as the cornerstone piece of a team and considered to be occupied by some of the game’s biggest stars.
In his prime, no star was brighter than Detroit Lions RB Barry Sanders. He was a dynamic, game-changing running back who had the ability to score a touchdown any time he had the ball in his hands. However, as great as he was, and how much more he had left to give to the game, he inconspicuously retired following just his 10th season in the league.
Many believed he walked away from the game at his pinnacle, and not many at the time understood why. In the latest documentary called Bye Bye Barry released Tuesday, the decision is discussed and explained in detail.
Let’s take a closer look at why Sanders decided to retire when he did.
Why Did Barry Sanders Retire From the NFL?
Sanders was an extremely productive running back at Oklahoma State and continued his dominance in the NFL. During his time in Detroit, Sanders tallied more than 15,000 rushing yards across his 10 seasons, including 2,053 yards in the 1997 season.
However, in 1999, just before the start of his 11th season, Sanders decided to hang up his cleats. The organization and Lions fans around the world were stunned. How could the best player in franchise history just decide to up and quit in the blink of an eye?
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Many believe the reason for his departure was due to the lack of success the Lions shared, and the fact Sanders no longer wanted to be a part of it. While it surely goes deeper than that, Bye Bye Barry promises to take a deeper look into what went into the decision that ultimately changed the Lions’ franchise forever.
Sanders Quit Before Breaking Walter Payton’s Record
Sanders finished his career with 15,269 rushing yards in his career in just 10 seasons. At the time, former Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton held the record for career rushing yards with 16,726, within striking range for Sanders to eclipse.
Being so close to history was enough reason why many at that time scratched their head at the decision. Since Sanders’ retirement, Payton’s record has been broken by former Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith, who finished his career with 18,355 rushing yards.
Sanders currently sits fourth all-time with only Smith, Payton, and Frank Gore (16,000) ahead of him. While he never got the record, one can wonder just what that number would have looked like if he never gave the game up.
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