We all know that the sport of college football can be tough, even on those athletes that are the most highly recruited, most talented and have great self confidence. There are a lot of great athletes across the depth chart at a school like Stanford.
Take running back, where Barry J. Sanders, who came to the Cardinal with All-American credentials with over 5,000 yards and 70 touchdowns as a prep star at Oklahoma City's Heritage Hall, and an NFL and Heisman Trophy pedigree in Hall of Fame father Barry Sanders. Well, then here comes Christian McCaffrey, who also has loads of talent and an NFL pedigree.
For Sanders, graduation was looming and an opportunity would present itself.
"I knew early in the season that things weren't going to turn out the way that I had envisioned, just with the way some stuff kind of happened at the end of fall camp going into week one," explained the 5-10, 198-pound speedster that still rushed for a 6.2-yard per carry average and four touchdowns as a back-up.
"I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. Like I was saying, the seed was planted there and as it happened and the weeks went on, I keep up with a lot of Oklahoma State athletics and I'm still a huge fan and I see what they are doing, what their strengths and weaknesses are. By the end of the season that was kind of my top pick because of what I saw in the regular season and even the postseason. It was just good to find a place where I can compete for a starting job and I'll be excited to get there in June."
Sanders spent a lot of time while growing up in Oklahoma City and during high school on the Oklahoma State campus. He had a replica of his dad's Oklahoma State jersey he wore and plenty of other orange in his closet. There was a general assumption and great anticipation that he would sign with the Cowboys and work on continuing the Sanders legacy.
But Barry J. Sanders opted to go his own trail and he had reasons with both football and outside of football. He thought acting might be a future career and he knew contacts could be made on the West Coast. He will leave Stanford in June with a degree in communications. He will leave Palo Alto and California believing he has maximized what Stanford and the experience had to offer including another future career, not in Hollywood, but one that could lead to Washington, D.C.
"Absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind that is the case. To be honest, the reason I feel so comfortable leaving is that I believe I have taken advantage of all the resources and I have met everyone that I feel that I need to come in contact with," Sanders said.
"It is funny that you mention politics just because I met Condoleezza Rice a couple of weeks ago during recruiting time. We had a big recruiting weekend and she was hanging out around the facilities and she did mention, 'I can't wait to vote for you for U.S. Senator one day.' I thought that was funny because that was something that I'd never really thought of, being in politics, but that is something that people around me see in my future."
People around him see in his immediate future the chance to jump start an Oklahoma State running game that has struggled for the past two seasons. Fans see Barry Sanders and the expectations can't help themselves, they are sky high. The younger Sanders talks sense, talks reality, but aims high.
"I obviously know what people are saying and have said for a long time now," Sanders answered. "I haven't let that stop me from doing what I have to do. I know how great my father was and I think I know how great I can be, so I'm excited for this opportunity.
"I believe the sky will be the limit in the way I perform. I have said before that anyone that tries to compare themselves to my father, it is hard to, it is very hard to. As much as I think that, I have some of his moves that doesn't compare to what he was able to do over a long period of time. That is what made him so great. I hope to replicate that as much as I can but this is reality."
Sanders' reality is to continue to work out at Stanford. He said he is lifting and running with some of the seniors preparing for Pro Day. He is anxious but knows he has to finish out his degree and graduate before heading home.
So often we speak about Sanders' dad when we discuss him but he gained a lot of his ability and personality from his mother. A former track standout, Aletha House, will be elated to get her son close to home.
"It will be very nice," Sanders agreed about getting back close to mom. "I don't think she missed more than two games this year, home and away. She made it a point to be out here to see me. Now that I'm going to be much closer this next fall this will be easy on her and my little brother, Terrance. Terrance will probably be more happy than she will be."
They will both be happy and they are not alone. Oklahoma State fans are beside themselves to get Sanders in a Cowboy uniform.