In the aftermath ofAndrew Luck‘s stunning retirement, Barry Sanders’ name has been bandied about plenty in recent days as he too hung up his cleats with plenty left to offer the game.
However, it was Sanders’ recent thoughts on second-year sensationSaquon Barkleythat might well be telling.
“There are a lot of guys who have really good first years (only), but he appears to be one of those guys who has that potential for all-time greatness,”Sanders told the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard of Barkley. “And I would think he’s just as hungry, just as driven to really restore theGiantsto former glory.”
It’s the highest of praise considering Sanders is most often spoken of when the subject of the all-time greatest running backs comes to the table, joined by the likes of Walter Payton and Jim Brown.
Just like Barkley, Sanders burst upon the NFL scene, collecting rookie of the year accolades just as theGiantsback did.
The 10-time Pro Bowler went on to juke, weave, wiggle and stutter-step his way to more than 15,000 yards rushing before handing the ball to the official following 99 rushing touchdowns.
While Barkley is off to a scintillating start to his career, Sanders points to this season as a pivotal one.
“I think he should be just as motivated going into this year knowing the success he had last year, knowing they’re gonna be gunning for him, and it’ll probably be even more difficult potentially this next season,” Sanders said. “It’s one of those years it’ll certainly tell a lot about the kind of player he’s going to be.”
Sanders, known most for his moves on moves, ran extremely low to the ground, buoyed by tree trunks for thighs. In Barkley, he sees a similar powerful, athletic frame built to excel.
“But just seeing how he dealt with defenders, a lot of the same stuff that he got away with in college, it worked in the pros: jab steps, fakes, the speed,” Sanders said. “To see him being able to run away from guys. He’s trained really well, and he’s an impressive physical specimen when you look at him. He looks a lot bigger than I am. The way he carries his weight. There’s nothing he can’t do with the football. And the eye test. He’s one of those guys you can just watch him play and be entertained whether it’s a long run or not.”
While Sanders filled up highlight reels, theLionsstruggled for the majority of his career, searching for playoff berths as often as they were starting quarterbacks.
Sanders hopes Barkley is able to find his way to more playoff games with a more stable quarterback presence handing off the ball to him — if not dumping it off in the passing game.
“I hope he doesn’t have the unfortunate situation I had playing with maybe 16 or 17 starting quarterbacks,” Sanders said with a laugh. “I hope he doesn’t have that experience. Hopefully there’s stability there. I think a lot of people have high hopes (for the Giants). They have the quarterback (Jones). And you could just see that could be a dynamic combination for years to come.”
TheGiantsare hoping the phenomenal footwork of Barkley will carry them to success for years to come. Obviously that needs to play out, for now though, at the very least, Barkley has earned the respect and eye of one of the game’s all-time greats.