Yet the humble running back, who amassed more than 15,000 rushing yards over his career, is still beloved by football fans – and not just Lions fans.
"Don’t ask me how or why," Sanders told me in a phone interview today. “That part of it has been pretty awesome.”
Sanders won the EA Sports "Old School" vs. "New School" voting theme for the cover of its 25th edition of the Madden video game.
Ultimately, it came down to Sanders and reigning NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson.
“Going up against Adrian and the year he had this year makes it that much more special,” Sanders said. “He won almost every award for an offensive player. It was kind of fitting that two running backs were battling it out for the cover.”
The fact that Sanders beat out the reigning MVP and one of the most popular players in the game today, says a lot about how highly regarded players like Sanders, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and others from the 1990’s NFL era continue to be.
That fact wasn’t lost on Sanders.
“So much of my reputation and how kids know about me and the guys that played in my era in the 90’s is through the Madden game,” Sanders said.
“It does kind of come full circle in that way. You have a retired player able to grace the cover, really, because we’re kind of kept alive and kept current with this generation knowing me and others through the game.”
Sanders joked that the game being good to him from a design standpoint doesn’t hurt, either.
“For god sakes, I’m almost as fast as Bo Jackson in this game,” he said with a laugh. “It’s pretty cool.”
Sanders being voted to the cover certainly speaks to the impact he had – and continues to have – on football fans more than a decade after his playing days.
HONORARY DRAFT GUEST
Sanders will be announcing the Lions’ first-round pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday, and offered his two cents on what he think the Lions will do with the No. 5 pick.
“I think we have our eye on a couple big guys,” Sanders said. “I think in today’s game, you certainly can’t have enough big guys who can protect the quarterback and I’d assume that’s the first place we’re looking.”