Welcoming Committee: Barry Sanders

General Published on : 7/31/2004
by Mike Singletary, Class of 1998
Special to Profootballhof.com

Editor's Note: Mike Singletary got an up close look at Barry Sanders twice year for the four seasons that their Hall of Fame careers overlapped. The Bears and Lions split the series in each of the four years – from Barry's rookie season in 1989 through Mike's last season in 1992. Singletary, like Sanders, was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Singletary currently serves as the linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens.

Date Score
Sept. 24, 1989 Chi 47, DET 27
Dec. 10, 1989 Det 27, CHI 17
Dec. 2, 1990 CHI 23, Det 17 (OT)
Dec. 16, 1990 Det 38, CHI 21
Nov. 3, 1991 CHI 20, Det 10
Nov. 28, 1991 DET 16, Chi 6
Sept. 6, 1992 CHI 27, Det 24
Dec. 20, 1992 DET 16, Chi 3

In 1989, the Bears were looking early on to going to the Super Bowl. We had a great year in '88 and in 1989, we were thinking our defense was going to be great and we were going to go out and do what we had to do.

Then, we were getting ready to play Detroit and heard about this running back that's supposed to be really elusive. And we sort of took it lightly. We thought the teams around the league were just bad at tackling. But, we said we're going to do a better job and shut the guy down and show people how you should play him.

And, Barry, we played you and you were unbelievable. At the start of the game, you did some plays unlike anything I had ever seen. It was very frustrating for our defense and we began to look at each other and say, 'we're doing something wrong, this guy's getting yards here and there and this isn't the Bears defense.'

We felt pretty down on ourselves after you gained 126 yards. But, as the season grew on, we began to understand that you were a special running back! The only way that we were going to contain you was that we had better score points and we better really play disciplined defense and make you run out of bounds. Otherwise we knew we were going to have a long day.

Barry, you were a running back that every time you touched the ball I knew that I had to get there and I had better get there fast. And once I got there, I knew I had better get you down and hopefully I had a gang of guys around me in case I missed you.

To me, it's difficult to rank you as a running back. Because you were one of those guys that you didn't run over players, you didn't run around defenders, you were just kind of like almost magic. So when they start talking about how to rank you among the all-time best running backs – you didn't catch a lot of balls out of the backfield. You were just a great running back.

So, when I look at guys like Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, and Earl Campbell – everybody's got their own thing about them that made them great. When I begin to talk about ranking you, I guess I have to say you were great. How great? I don't know. I wish I had a chance to play against you longer.

Although, I saw a lot of you – sometimes too much!

When I look back at the Detroit teams that I played, I think Wayne Fontes did a really good job of starting to put the pieces in the puzzle around you. He got you a wideout in Herman Moore, he got some guys on defense like Michael Cofer and Chris Spielman; Rodney Peete at quarterback and some of the other guys he started to put around you. He had himself a good team. The Lions were doing some good things and it grew into a pretty solid rivalry between the Bears and Lions. But, when I think of Detroit to this day, the first thing I think of is Barry Sanders!

Well, Barry, it is one of those things that I'm so thankful that a guy like you who played at the level you did and at such a non-traditional size – I've always thought that greatness is not measured by really what you do but it's what you overcome. I don't think you had great hands, didn't have the size, but you had heart! Your heart is the kind of heart for the game that belongs in the Hall of Fame!

Welcoming Committee
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