Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Best There Is! The Best There Was! The Best There Ever Will Be!

NFL Legends Figure: Barry Sanders

He is my all time favorite athlete. He's the only athlete that I ever dreamed of being. He's THE touchstone for me. He's the back that I measure all backs against. For his entire career he was always THAT dude. It started out as who was better, Barry or Thurman? I used to have that argument all of the time with a friend of mine. Hell, I remember the cover of an old trading card price guide that had both of them sharing the cover asking who the best back was. I don't remember if that was Beckett or Tuff Stuff. But, from Thurman it went to Emmitt (the most overrated athlete of all time) to Terrell Davis. They all came and went and when the dust settled Barry was left. But, even moreso than that Barry was also a time marker for me. Not just football before Barry Sanders and after Barry Sanders, but also he was the first athlete that I loved that I saw his whole career. I saw him come into the league challenging Christian Okoye for the rushing title and I saw him pull his most jaw dropping juke ever when he left. I remember when he retired, it was the first time that I felt like I wasn't a kid. It's weird when your first hero who you saw start his career ends it. That's when I realized that I am truly an adult. It wasn't passing the milestones of my 18th or 21st birthday, but the day one of my heroes was gone. It was weird not watching his highlights on NFL Prime Time or watching him every Thanksgiving. He was the classiest athlete I had ever seen. I loved how he let his actions speak for him.

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