April 14, 2013

MVP Profile: Barry Sanders, 1997

Running Back, Detroit Lions

Age: 29
9th season in pro football & with Lions
College: Oklahoma State
Height: 5’8”   Weight: 203

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, his first of four NFL rushing titles, and through 1996 had received MVP recognition once, consensus All-NFL honors five times, and was chosen to the Pro Bowl in all eight years. Sanders 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. He made up for lack of size with outstanding elusiveness and running instincts.

1997 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 335 [4]
Most attempts, game - 30 (for 137 yds.) at Miami 12/7
Yards – 2053 [1]
Most yards, game – 216 yards (on 24 carries) vs. Indianapolis 11/23
Average gain – 6.1 [2]
TDs – 11 [3, tied with Kordell Stewart & Marcus Allen, 1st in NFC]
200-yard rushing games – 2
100-yard rushing games – 14

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 33      
Most receptions, game – 8 (for 102 yds.) vs. Tampa Bay 9/7
Yards – 305
Most yards, game - 102 (on 8 catches) vs. Tampa Bay 9/7
Average gain – 9.2
TDs – 3
100-yard receiving games – 1

All-purpose yards – 2358 [1]

TDs – 14 [3, 1st in NFC]
Points – 84

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Wild Card playoff at Tampa Bay)
Rushing attempts – 18
Rushing yards – 65
Average gain rushing – 3.6
Rushing TDs – 0

Pass receptions – 5
Pass receiving yards - 43
Average yards per reception – 8.6
Pass Receiving TDs - 0

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

Lions went 9-7 to finish third in the NFC Central and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card while leading the conference in rushing yards (2464). Lost NFC Wild Card playoff to Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20-10).

Sanders rushed for 1491 yards in 1998, his last season before abruptly retiring. He 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. Sanders retired with 15,269 rushing yards and scored a total of 109 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2004.


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 2/4/14]
[Updated 11/29/14]