The son of the NFL's third all-time leading rusher, Barry Sanders Jr. has similarly torched high school defenses. He has racked up 1,083 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011, upping his career totals to 4,440 and 80 scores. He is considering offers to Alabama, Oklahoma State, Florida State and Stanford.Read More Below
It's not surprising that Barry Sanders Jr., a senior running back at Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City, is a media magnet. It comes with the name. Attention has followed him since he first donned pads, ballooning as he filled out his 5-11, 190-pound frame. When he joined the Chargers in the fall of 2008, coach Andy Bogert called a team meeting.
"We just told them, 'Guys, this is Barry Sanders' son,'" he recalled. "'He's gonna get press no matter what. The natural curiosity is there.'"
Here's the surprising thing: Over the next four years, Sanders has justified the hype. He's creating his own football legacy.
There's a mesmerizing quality about watching him run. The way he see holes before they open, the way zips past confounded defenders. He makes one dazzling cut after another, sending would-be tacklers stumbling as he explodes toward the end zone. The hawkish field vision, the stunning cutbacks -- all the traits that once made his father great -- have begun to surface.
"I'm just patient," Sanders said. "I let my eyes do the talking."
As his stats have grown, so has his legend. After leading the Chargers to a 15-0 record and a state title as a freshman, he's proceeded to dominate prep defenses. Through nine games his senior year, he has 4,440 career rushing yards, 690 receiving yards and 80 total touchdowns. He's the consummate blend of performance and pedigree.
"It's almost like he cuts midair," said Bogert. "He has the ability to change directions that most people don't."
That's not lost on colleges, as dozens of Division-I programs have flooded him with offers. The Rivals' seventh-ranked running back in the class of 2012, he's narrowed his list to four: Alabama, Florida State, Stanford and Oklahoma State. The latter is his father's alma mater, a program he won the Heisman for in 1988.
Though Sanders is careful not to reveal his leanings, this is telling. Last spring, while recovering from foot surgery, he toured Stanford with quarterback Andrew Luck. According to Bogert, he loved that -- walking around the Palo Alto campus -- almost no one recognized the future NFL top draft pick.
"Nobody knew who Andrew Luck was," Bogert marveled. "I don't know if the attention is that appealing to him."
It's clear. While fans continue to liken him to his father, to heighten his already lofty expectations, Sanders plans to go about his business. He's his own man.
"I've never felt like [my dad] wants me to play football," Sanders said. "He's always left it up to me and let me grow into what I've become."
In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Sanders talks of majoring in finance, of perhaps owning a sports franchise. He exudes a desire to be great that transcends the gridiron, mirroring his father's once renowned competitiveness. He's also developed a close relationship with wide receiver Sterling Shepard, an Oklahoma commit and fellow four-star recruit. The two push each other -- both on the field and off.
To wit: On Oct. 28, during Heritage Hall's Class 3A semifinals rematch with Bethany (Okla.), they combined for 365 yards and six touchdowns, five going for 30 yards or longer. The Chargers triumphed 55-10.
"You've got two exceptional athletes going at each other every day," said Bogert. "It's made both of them better players."
That drive should translate to the next level, where Sanders' reputation will precede him. But this much is clear: Twelve years after the retirement of one of the NFL's most transcendent stars, a new Barry Sanders has emerged. And he's unmistakably talented.
While his name looms large, his game looms larger.
"He's a great kid," said Bogert. "If he stays healthy, I look forward to reading about him on Sundays."