Barry Sanders, statue, NFL legend

Detroit Lions Unveil Bronze Statue Honoring NFL Legend Barry Sanders

Ahead of their home opener against the Seattle Seahawks, the Detroit Lions honored former NFL legend Barry Sanders with an 8-foot bronze statue outside of Ford Field.

Sanders, widely regarded as one of the best running backs ever, was known for his elusive running style, details of which were captured in the statue’s pose.

Little things like the cut-off gloves that I wore and obviously the very alert eyes,” Sanders told ESPN. “I haven’t had a chance to really soak it in, but those were some of the things I noticed, and obviously sort of the pose is like I’m in action.”

Sanders’ statue was created by Illinois-based Fine Arts Studio Rotblatt Amrany, which made Michael Jordan’s statue outside Chicago’s United Center and Magic Johnson‘s statue outside the Arena in Los Angeles.

During the ceremony, a tribute video featuring highlights from Sanders’ playing days as well as tributes from fellow NFL luminaries Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Peyton Manning, played. The ceremony was not open to the public, but some current Lions attended.

“That’s amazing for anybody to get a statue,” Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs said. “It shows that he had a big impact on Detroit, and it shows how thankful the city is for him. I’m happy. Hopefully, I can get one of them one day.”

Amon-Ra St. Brown, another one of Detroit’s young playmakers, told ESPN that his memories of Sanders are tied to his father.

“I played running back my whole life, until I got to high school, and my dad would always show me highlights of Barry. That was the guy. He said he was the ‘coldest dude out.’ So, when I was a kid, I was Barry all the way. Barry and Reggie Bush. Those were my guys, and just watching his highlights, I would be like, ‘This dude is crazy.’ Just being here now, with him getting a statue as one of the best to ever do it, in the entire NFL history, is cool,” St.Brown said.

Sanders’ decision to retire prematurely following the Lions 1998 season has long been one of football’s biggest “what-ifs” as he was within reach of Walter Payton’s then-record 16,726 rushing yards. Sanders revealed during the ceremony that he will release a documentary in November 2023 detailing what led him to retire.

He is first and only Detroit Lions player to receive a statue.

“You heard the saying that you give a person their flowers while they’re around,” Sanders said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon, I’m just saying that saying … but if this statue could be used with that analogy, then I would have to say this is one heck of a bouquet for me, so thanks a lot. I appreciate it.”

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