Class of 2004 enshrinee Barry Sanders
, one of the game’s most exciting and elusive running backs, received a huge welcome at his alma mater in Wichita on Thursday afternoon. The former Detroit Lions
running back was the focus of an electric tribute ceremony as he was honored as a “Hometown Hall of Famer™” by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company. The event took place at Wichita North High School and was complete with a full school pep rally, cheerleaders, dance team, marching band and ROTC whose swords lined the red carpet entrance set for the football great.
The Heisman Trophy-winning Sanders was presented with his “Hometown Hall of Famer™” plaque during a lively high school pep rally attended by more than 2,000 students, faculty, friends and family in the Wichita North gymnasium. Wichita North High School also recognized the entire Sanders family in attendance and paid a special tribute to the late William Sanders, Barry’s father who passed away in June 2011, by pausing for a moment of silence during the ceremony. William presented Barry for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
"The outpouring of affection for Barry Sanders, his family, and what it meant to North High School to become part of the pro football history as they received the Hometown Hall of Fame historical plaque was nothing short of spectacular," stated George Veras, president/CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises. "It was not just the 2,000 people in attendance, the marching band, the dance troupe, the cheerleaders, the entire student body, the posters on the wall, it was the spirit of appreciation to house the plaque and honor it as part of their own school history that was so special"
Photo: Barry Sanders along with Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises President/CEO George Veras after the unveiling of Sanders Hometown Hall of Famer™ plaque.
Wichita Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams formally presented Sanders his plaque which will live permanently at the high school and will serve as an inspiration to students in the community. Also on-hand to honor Sanders was local Allstate agent Mark Wurfel who spoke to the crowd about what it means to recognize your roots and your community.
“To be part of a program that brings the prestige and tradition of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to communities like Wichita is an honor for Allstate, our agents and employees,” said Mark LaNeve, Allstate executive vice president, marketing and sales operations.
In addition to the plaque, a commemorative Barry Sanders “Hometown Hall of Famer™” road sign will be displayed in the Wichita community to honor the roots of Sanders’ legacy in the place where it all began.
"Being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the greatest accomplishment
I achieved in my pro career. To be able to share that with future generations of kids
who walk the same high school halls that I walked, and to be a constant reminder
that their dreams are within their reach is an honor I will always cherish.
I thank Allstate and the Hall of Fame for helping make this happen." - Barry Sanders
Sanders peaked as a running back during his senior year in 1985 at Wichita North High School when he rushed for more than 1,300 yards in the final seven games of the season, earning all-state honors. Upon graduating, he went to Oklahoma State for his college football career spanning from 1986-88. Sanders set numerous college records in 1988 while playing for the Cowboys such as rushing yards (2,628), all-purpose yards (3,249), touchdowns (39), and points (234) and was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
The Detroit Lions selected him with their first-round pick, 3rd overall, in the 1989 draft
. He starred for Detroit through his retirement after the 1998 season with a career total of 15,269 rushing yards, 2,921 receiving yards and 109 touchdowns..
“Hometown Hall of Famers™ presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate” is the Hall of Fame’s first nationwide plaque program and will lead into the celebration of its 50th anniversary starting in August 2012.
“Hometown Hall of Famers™” will next honor the legacy of Walter Payton
with his family in Columbia, Miss., on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at Columbia High School.
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