For pro athletes, take-your-son to work day seems to have a lot more of an effect than it does on most kids. On a growing basis it appears that retired pro athletes are living vicariously through their sons.
You’ve got Jerry Rice Jr. catching balls for UNLV, another #21 at the University of Florida hogging the rock via the ground game who resembles Fred Taylor, David Robinson’s son Corey is stretching defenses vertically at Notre Dame, Trey Griffey is catching long bombs instead of launching them outside the park, Randall Cunningham Jr. is emerging at quarterback for the nation’s most explosive high school offense and then there’s Barry Sanders Jr.
Last week, the redshirt freshman finally dug himself out from underneath the pile of upperclassmen burying him on Stanford’s running back depth chart. All it takes is one move to make a name for yourself. Barry’s son first gained notice as the real deal on a football field during his freshman year of high school, after this sideline escape on a reverse which resulted in a 64-yard touchdown. Since then, he’s been just as low-key as his pops.
According to former NFL defensive lineman Jamie Dukes, the running joke among defenders when they faced Barry Sanders was the fear of doing the Lord's Prayer, in which “Barry gets in front of you, you try to make a tackle, and you clap your hands and fall down to your knees.”
What Sanders Jr. performed on Washington State linebacker Cyrus Coen Saturday was a little something called “The Holy Ghost.”
The Cardinals’ freshman back turned to receive a screen pass, charged up field through a visible hole behind a block, planted his left leg in the ground, then quickly bounced right as a defender squared up for the tackle and sacrificed him to the football gods. Coen fell backwards without being touched by anything visible to the human eye.
Coen’s sacrifice may help yield a great harvest for the Sanders family this year. Not only is pop on the cover of Madden 25, but Stanford is in its best position for a national championship in nearly 90 years and Jr. might be gaining acclaim for more than just his name. Later on in the fourth quarter, Sanders also scampered off-tackle to his right into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.
As his freshman season progresses Sanders should see an uptick in his touches. Tyler Gaffney is doing his thing in the backfield for Stanford, but it couldn’t hurt to have a fresh pair of elusive legs to bring in there, back Gaffney up in Stanford’s run-based offensive system and put the fear of Sanders in the heart of defenders.
Projecting Sanders to be as great as his dad is unfair, even after he rushed for 5,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in high school. His dad sat behind Thurman Thomas until his third year at Oklahoma State, and until his junior season he'd only had 200 carries. Jr.’s only had four in his career and three came on Saturday. However, real heads recognize, Sanders Jr. shouldn’t have to wait as long as his dad did to finally start toting the rock on a regular basis in college.