On the run, Sanders driven by the force 300-pound pursuers only motivation he needs

October 20, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Barry Sanders has a simple explanation for why he appears driven on a football field.

"If you've ever had 300-pounders chasing you around, you know where I get the drive," he said. "It's easy to be driven when you have guys trying to do harm on you."

That's typical of Sanders, who never would suggest he's on the short list of the game's best backs ever.

Halfway through his seventh season, Sanders has gained 9,264 yards and his coach, Wayne Fontes, says, "He's the best I've ever seen."

The all-time record of 16,726 yards set by Walter Payton is within his grasp if he stays healthy, but he scoffs at the idea he has a chance at it.

"That seems a little far-fetched right now," he said.

Why?

"I'd have to play a lot longer. That is a long time for anybody. I can't envision myself playing that long," he said.

But then Sanders said he didn't even envision himself as a pro football player when he went to college.

"I had older brothers and I was going to do what they did. I was going to go to school and find a major and graduate and get a job," he said.

It didn't take long for the pro scouts to figure out that his job was going to be football, but his success hasn't changed him.

He appears to have no regrets that he's played his career in Detroit, where he's rarely had a good team around him.

It's not unusual that the Lions, who never have played in a Super Bowl, come into RFK Stadium Sunday to face the Washington Redskins with a 2-4 record.

"I don't think it does me any good to look and say the grass is greener on the other side. We have to make it happen here," he said.

Sanders also doesn't want to join in the argument of whether he or Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys is the best back in the game.

"I hear a little bit of both," he said.

He will analyze the styles of the two runners.

"He kind of glides, he finds a hole and glides through. He has that deceptive speed . . . where myself it's more maybe [I'll] try and make people miss, a spin, a cutback, stuff like that," he said.

Among the things Sanders has never done is win in Washington, but then the Lions never have done that either. They were 0-5 at Griffith Stadium and 0-10 at RFK Stadium. Overall, they've lost 16 straight to the Redskins since 1965, the longest current streak.

Sanders, though, doesn't think there's any jinx at RFK Stadium.

"The teams I've played against were good teams," he said. "Most teams didn't beat those teams."

This time, he plays against a Washington team that is 2-5 and 28th against the rush. Sanders has only one 100-yard game against the Redskins in three tries.

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