It was the tenth anniversary of the hall arriving in South Bend. This was my ninth trip to the hall of fame for the ceremonies. However this was my first time going as the media. It was a little intimidating being in the same room as Barry Sanders, Joe Theismann, and Darrell Green.
The press conference started at 10am, but the hall of fame staff did not allow the media to talk to the athletes until just about noon. A few of the littler known guys gave their expectance speech during this time. One of them was Roger Wehrli, who played defense back at the University of Missouri from 1966-1968.
Sanders, was known for eluding tackles, but he can also be now known as eluding the media. All the inductees stayed and answered questions from the media before they headed out for the kid's clinic. Sanders did say a few words in the press conference but that was only because Hall of Fame Director Bernie Kish asked him to.
The controversial BCS system was brought up, and Sanders spoke about that. He said, "The primary focus is on education, not on athletics. I think the current system works and they shouldn't change it."
Sanders was heavily guarded all day with South Bend Police, when went to use the bathroom they made sure nobody was in there. They would stand at the door making sure no patrons would go in there seeking an autograph.
I did get to talk to Sanders for a brief one on one period. He saw the sweatshirt I was wearing and he wanted to know if I went to Emporia State University. I told him no, it was a gift my girlfriend, who does goes there. Then we had a brief discussion about Kansas, and he said that he was from Wichita.
Sanders could have gone to the obvious choices in Kansas either University of Kansas or Kansas State University. He chose instead to go down to Oklahoma State University. Sanders was a backup his first two seasons in Stillwater. Thurman Thomas was the man in front of Sanders.
In just one season as the starter for the Cowboys, what could be argued as the greatest season ever by a running back. In 1988 he rushed for 2,628 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 234 points all still NCAA records. That season led him to a unanimous All-American pick and the Hesiman Trophy winner.
Sanders said, "I wanted to stay in school, but things changed. It was difficult to play football and go to school. I do wonder sometimes what it would have been like to play my senior year."
He did go on to have a great career in the NFL playing ten seasons for the Detroit Lions. Sanders was honored two weeks ago for his playing days in the NFL, when he was enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.