There are traditions in every family that are handed down from father to son. For Barry J. Sanders (who has mistakenly been referred to as Barry Sanders Jr., including by us, despite having a different middle name than his dad), he has picked up the habit of avoiding tacklers at all costs.
“I would say I’m a guy who doesn’t like to get hit if I can help it, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to avoid tacklers and not go down,” J. Sanders told The Sporting News earlier this year.
Sound familiar? The elder Sanders, a record-breaking star at Oklahoma State and an NFL Hall of Famer, made his living by making himself disappear into thin air – at least, that’s how defenders felt as they fell helplessly to the turf.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that J. Sanders has become a YouTube sensation as a four-star running back out of Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City, OK, where the 5-foot-11, 190-pound back – taller than his 5-foot-8 father – is a blue-chip recruit for the class of 2012. He is ranked the seventh best running back and 134th overall recruit by Rivals.com.
Barry J. Sanders has said that Alabama, Florida State, Stanford and his father’s school, Oklahoma State, are the four frontrunners for the his services. The others? The younger Sanders told The Sporting News in May that Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA have a shot to crack that list.
What makes anyone think that he can approach the accomplishments of his dad? Well, it’s unclear if anyone thinks there will ever be another Barry Sanders – unless, of course, there’s literally another running back of the same name.
But J. Sanders’ debut onto the national scene was done with a splash. He scored three touchdowns in a 37-7 victory over Chandler in the Class 2A state title game as a freshman in 2008. That was an encore after his 64-yard touchdown run in the semifinals nearly shut down the Internet.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a YouTube video of the run attracted more than a million hits in its first week and made enough of an impression that it was the talk of his high school.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” J. Sanders told the newspaper last year. “It was really unexpected. I know I woke up that morning and was getting texts and was like, `What does this mean?’
“It wasn’t until I got to school and people were talking about it, and they actually showed it at lunch.”
Soon, J. Sanders is going to be featured on a bigger platform that at Heritage Hall cafeteria tables. Where will that be? He told The Sporting News that he must decide if he wants to remain in his home state of Oklahoma or not.
Go ahead, hold your breath, Okie State fans.
After averaging a ridiculous 11 yards a carry last fall, J. Sanders missed five games last season due to a foot injury and was finally shut down when he came back too soon from the injury. Through four games this fall, J. Sanders is almost back to form, averaging over seven yards per rush and scoring six touchdowns.
Oklahoma State fans are sweating out the possibility he could head to Alabama after leaking news last spring that Mark Ingram was leaving early for the NFL and being seen sitting next to Nick Saban at a Crimson Tide basketball game.
One thing’s certain: The younger Sanders’ future school is going to get a running back with elusiveness in the mold of an NFL Hall of Famer who was on pace to be the league’s all-time leading rusher before retiring with more runs left in the tank at age 31.
Those who wish the elder Sanders had stuck around for a few more jukes and spins may get that and more if they follow his son’s emerging career.
“He hasn’t told me this directly, but my father has talked to his friends and told them that I probably have more speed than he did at this age,” J. Sanders told The Sporting News, speaking of his 4.4 jets.
“But I’m still looking to get faster. I think I might be a bit more mature as a running back at this age than he was, but he was a great player coming out of high school in Wichita (KS) and he proved that in college and the NFL.”
Oh yeah, he has confidence, too.