Monday, July 28, 2014

Barry Sanders Announces Retirement From NFL

On July 28, 1999, Barry Sanders was well on his way to shattering Walter Payton's rushing record. At age 30, he could have ascended the ranks of the greatest players of all time -- he compiled statistics in his first nine years that were on par with those of Jim Brown, widely regarded as the best NFL player ever. He even brought prosperity to one of the most notoriously awful sports franchises in America: the Detroit Lions.

So you can imagine what a shock it was when on this day in 1999, Barry Sanders formally announced his retirement from the game of football. When the media tried to get in touch with him, they couldn't, as he was already on a plane to Europe.

Many were skeptical that Barry's retirement was some sort of hold-out and that eventually he would come back. He had six years left on his contract and was only 30. He had to come back, why wouldn't he?

But Sanders didn't come back, ever, and he left the Lions without their star player. Detroit made the playoffs in 1999 but would struggle mightily over the next decade, even suffering an 0-16 season in 2008.

In his 2003 autobiography, Barry Sanders revealed an explanation for his abrupt departure. Sanders was unhappy with the Lions' downward spiral over the years, particularly the disassembling of the '91 team that nearly made it to the Super Bowl. "When they got rid of Kevin Glover," Sanders wrote, "They convinced me that their goal wasn't anywhere close to being about winning games. I didn't realize it at the time, but part of me left with him, just as part of me left with those other guys I mentioned."

In the end, the losing culture of the Lions and their bungling management took its toll on Sanders. "I didn't see what good there was in hanging around when the organization wasn't trying to put together a winning team. Looking at what other teams in our division had done... I didn't think we were as serious about winning as our competitors." Sanders also wrote that there were tears in his eyes on the last day of the 1998 season, a 19-10 loss to the Bengals. "I knew it was over."

Sanders finished his career as second on the All-Time rushing list, behind only “Sweetness” Walter Payton. Since his retirement in 1999, Emmit Smith broke the All-Time rushing record and now Sanders is ranked third with 15,269 yards and 109 touchdowns.

Some of Sanders accomplishments include: 10 consecutive Pro-Bowl selections, six-time First-Team All-Pro, 1989 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1991 NFL Bert Bell Award (Player of the Year), 1994 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 1997 NFL MVP, 1997 Bert Bell Award, 1997 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. As well being named to the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade Team,

Sanders was also rated the no. 1 Most Elusive Running Back of All-Time by and rated the no. 17 NFL Player of All-Time by

Sanders was inducted into Canton’s NFL Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Check out the video below of Sanders' Top 10 plays Sports Center style: