Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders abruptly retired from the Lions in 1999 but team ownership now has made certain that his presence will be forever immortalized outside Ford Field.
An eight-foot bronze statue of the 10-time Pro Bowl running back was unveiled prior to the Lions season opener earlier this month. It depicts Sanders performing one of his signature juke moves on an overmatched defender.
Sanders, now 55, was visibly touched by the unveiling ceremony which included former Lions teammates and Sanders’ family and friends.
“I’m so blessed and fortunate to be in this position to have this recognition and tribute,” Sanders said. “It’s such a unique honor. I grew up being familiar with Heisman Trophy winners and NFL MVPs, but to have your own statue is something that’s just so far out of the realm of anything I would have imagined.”
Sanders is the first Lions player to be honored with a statue outside the team’s home stadium. There already is a nine-foot high statue of him outside the stadium at his alma mater Oklahoma State University but it was not the first one to be erected there. The late OSU alum T. Boone Pickens had that honor.
“I think this is the perfect time for the statue here in Detroit,” says Sanders. “You heard the saying that you give a person flowers while they’re still around. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. However, if this statue could be used with that analogy, then I would have to say this is one heck of a bouquet for me. I really appreciate it and I also appreciate all the Lions fans who cheered me on over the years during my 10-year journey.”
We at NFL Alumni also salute our brother Barry Sanders and thank him for the way he carried himself both during his career and in the past quarter-century since he retired. We look forward to watching on Amazon Prime this fall his new documentary which he calls “the definitive movie on my life.”
What a life—and football career—it has been!