August 20, 2011

MVP Profile: Barry Sanders, 1991

Running Back, Detroit Lions



Age: 23
3rd season in pro football & with Lions
College: Oklahoma State
Height: 5’8” Weight: 203

Prelude:
Following a Heisman-winning season as a junior, Sanders chose to forego his last year of eligibility and turn pro. Taken by the Lions in the first round of the 1989 NFL draft (third overall), he had an immediate impact, rushing for 1470 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was not just Rookie of the Year but went to the Pro Bowl and was a consensus first team All-Pro. Sanders followed up with a league-leading 1304 yards in 1990 and again was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl participant. He made up for lack of size with outstanding elusiveness and running instincts.

1991 Season Summary
Appeared and started in 15 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Rushing
Attempts – 342 [2]
Most attempts, game - 32 (for 143 yds.) vs. Miami 9/15
Yards – 1548 [2]
Most yards, game – 220 yards (on 23 carries) at Minnesota 11/24
Average gain – 4.5 [12]
TDs – 16 [1]
200-yard rushing games – 1
100-yard rushing games – 8

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 41
Most receptions, game – 9 (for 76 yds.) vs. Minnesota 10/6
Yards – 307
Most yards, game - 76 (on 9 catches) vs. Minnesota 10/6
Average gain – 7.5
TDs – 1

All-purpose yards – 1855 [2]

Scoring
TDs – 17 [1]
Points – 102 [11, tied with John Kasay]

Postseason: 2 G
Rushing attempts – 23
Most rushing attempts, game - 12 vs. Dallas, NFC Divisional playoff
Rushing yards – 113
Most rushing yards, game - 69 vs. Dallas, NFC Divisional playoff
Average gain rushing – 4.9
Rushing TDs – 1

Pass receptions – 9
Most pass receptions, game - 5 vs. Dallas, NFC Divisional playoff
Pass receiving yards - 45
Most pass receiving yards, game - 30 vs. Dallas, NFC Divisional playoff
Average yards per reception – 5.0
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Player of the Year: Bert Bell Award
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-NFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Lions went 12-4 to finish first in the NFC Central, reaching the postseason for the first time since 1983 and with the club’s best record since 1962. Won NFC Divisional playoff over Dallas Cowboys (38-6). Lost NFC Championship to Washington Redskins (41-10).

Aftermath:
Sanders rushed for 1352 yards in 1992 and maintained his excellence over a career of ten years before abruptly retiring after the 1998 season. He led the league in ground-gaining four times, including a 2053-yard total in ’97, and never failed to gain a thousand yards – his lowest total was 1115 in 1993, when he missed five games due to injury, his only extended loss of playing time. Sanders was selected for the Pro Bowl following all ten seasons, was a consensus first-team All-Pro six times, and with his exciting, often-improvisational running style was a highlight film regular. He retired with 15,269 rushing yards and scored a total of 109 touchdowns. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2004.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself).

[Updated 2/15/14]