Retired Lions' tight end Charlie Sanders was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its 2007 class. Sanders became the 13th member of the franchise to join the league's elite.
"I would like to express my tremendous thanks to the Ford family and the Detroit Lions organization," said Sanders, who played for the team between 1968 and 1977. "To the fans of Detroit, the greatest fans – in my opinion – in the NFL. We're not there yet, but we'll get there and just as you've supported me through all my years, my family, I know that you're going to continue to support the Detroit Lions."
ROAR REPORT BIO ON CHARLIE SANDERS (written by Doug Warren)
"Charlie Deep" is simply the greatest Tight End in Lion history. No one has come close, before or since, and it is very likely to remain that way. Those who saw him dominate his position still speak in awe of his play. He could run like a wideout, block like a lineman, and catch like a cold. He played in the days before the NFL's revolutionary 1978 rules changes, which opened up the passing game as never before. Even so, his 336 career receptions remain number-five on the team's career list, behind only the 1990's foursome of Herman Moore, Johnnie Morton, Brett Perriman, and Barry Sanders. His 14.3 yard-per-catch average trails only Leonard Thompson (16.9), and Gail Cogdill (16.1) in the teams' top-ten pass catchers.
"There was no book on Charlie," said former Lion teammate and quarterback Greg Landry, "Charlie was strong enough to work against anyone in the secondary . . . he was fast enough that strong safeties had problems covering him in the open field. He was a wonderful target with his size, and an intelligent receiver who knew how to find open spots, or adjust routes to make it easier for me to reach him." On Charlie's blocking, Landry added this: "He just crushed the corner when he came off the ball, regardless of whether he was lined up against a defensive lineman or a linebacker. It was like having a third tackle in the game."
The 6-foot-4, 235 pound Sanders absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment during his career. As the Lions' top receiving threat, he was constantly double, sometimes triple-teamed. With the free-for-all pass defense pre-1978, he was often the target of extra-curricular abuse from opposing defenders. "In one sense the coverage makes me feel good," Sanders said during his playing days, "but in another sense it makes me mad. Why don't they leave me alone like any other tight end?" Despite the extra abuse, as well as major knee and shoulder injuries, he only missed nine regular-season games during his career.
Charlie was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, and a two-time All-Pro during his ten seasons with the Lions. "Charlie Deep", and defensive tackle Alex Karras, remain the two most glaring Lion omissions still awaiting enshrinement in Canton, Ohio.
Sanders joins recent inductee Barry Sanders, Lem Barney, Jack Christiansen, Earl "Dutch" Clark, Lou Creekmur, "Bullet" Bill Dudley, John Henry Johnson, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Yale Lary, Bobby Layne, Joe Schmidt, Doak Walker, Alex Wojciechowicz as other Lions that have etched a place in Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.