PHOENIX – Barry Sanders was pretty confident, but not 100 percent certain, he wouldn't shed a tear when the Detroit Lions unveil a statue of him at Ford Field this year.
"I don't know," Sanders told detroitlions.com at the NFL Honors show Thursday night at the Super Bowl on if he'll get emotional at the unveiling. "I wouldn't expect that I would, but you never know. My family and people are just thrilled and excited and they can't wait."
Sanders was forever immortalized in Canton in 2004 when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Still considered one of the game's most electrifying runners, Sanders was an NFL MVP (1997), two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1994, 1997), Offensive Rookie of the Year (1989), six-time first-team All-Pro (1989–1991, 1994, 1995, 1997) and earned a Pro Bowl nod in all 10 of his NFL seasons.
He is currently the third leading rusher all-time in NFL history behind only Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726) with 15,269 career rushing yards.
To this day, anytime Sanders steps in front of the Lions faithful at Ford Field the place goes wild and 'Barry, Barry' chants scream down from the rafters. It's certainly fitting he'll have a permanent statue at Ford Field so generations of Lions fans can honor arguably the greatest player to ever put on the Honolulu blue & silver.
"I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it and understand it," Sanders said of the honor. "It is pretty awesome. It's something that is so just unique and something I never really imagined.
"It gives me a chance to really look back on my career and I think you can also make the statement that it's not just what you did on the field, but other ways you had an impact on people, at least in my mind, anyway. Guys that played with you and their families and their stories of that era can really take pride in it, and they are a part of it. They are as much a part of it."
Sanders said he had a chance to sit down with the statue artist at Detroit's last home game and has been involved in the process throughout. The team has not released a date for the unveiling as of yet.
"It is with immense pride that we share the news that we will be honoring the greatest running back in the history of football with a statue in the city we represent," Lions owner Sheila Hamp said in a statement announcing the statue.
"Generations upon generations of fans will learn about Barry and his contributions not only to the Lions, but to the game of football. He is truly in a class of his own, and while we may never see a player quite as electrifying or elusive again, Barry's legacy will live forever and be tangible right here in Detroit."