The greatest player to ever put on a Detroit Lions uniform is now forever immortalized outside of Ford Field.
On Saturday night the Lions unveiled an 8-foot statue outside Gate B near the corner of Montcalm and Brush streets. Designed by Fine Art Studio artists Omri Amrany and Lou Cella, the statue perfectly captures what made Sanders so special. Clutching the football in his right hand, his left hand held out to keep a defender away, and him cutting hard on his right leg juking out a defender. Even small details like the cut-off gloves that Sanders wore to his wide-open alert eyes capture his essence perfectly.
"It's such a unique honor," Sanders said at the unveiling ceremony Saturday night. "I grew up being familiar with Heisman Trophy (winners) and NFL MVPs, but to have your own statue is something that's just unique and so far out of the realm of anything I would have ever imagined."
View photos of the Barry Sanders statue dedication ceremony at Ford Field.
Over 150 members of the Sanders family were in attendance along with a number of his former teammates and coaches, including former Lions coach Wayne Fontes, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, hip-hop legend Flavor Flav, Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson and general manager Brad Holmes were also in attendance.
Lions Principal Owner Sheila Hamp, Owner/Chair Emeritus Martha Firestone Ford, along with Vice Chairs Martha Ford Morse and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis and team president Rod Wood helped with the unveiling of the statue.
Sanders played his entire 10-year career with the Lions after being selected No. 3 overall in the 1989 draft out of Oklahoma State. During his pro career he gained 15,269 rushing yards and scored 109 touchdowns. When he retired, he ranked second in NFL history behind Walter Payton in rushing yardage. He's currently fourth on the all-time list behind Emmitt Smith, Payton and Frank Gore.
Sanders was selected to 10 Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All Pro six times. In 1997, he earned the NFL MVP after becoming the third player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He became a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2004.
Several former NFL players, current Lions players and athletes across all professional sports sent their congratulations to Sanders in a video tribute before the unveiling. Among them were Smith, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Barry Bonds, Billy Sims, Jalen Rose, Tim Brown, Steve Yzerman, Jack Nicklaus and Peyton Manning, who joked that the Sanders statue is the only time defenders will ever see him standing in one spot long enough to tackle.
"The beautiful thing is it's something that people can always see as they are sort of coming to the game, walk into the area and appreciate and see," Sanders said. "It's not like a trophy that is on your shelf at home. It's a trophy out that the community can appreciate and be able to enjoy."