Legendary NFL RB Barry Sanders reveals real reason for unexpected retirement: “I had lost a step”

Barry Sanders the legendary NFL RB retired from the NFL after the 1998 season. Sanders made 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and consistently performed well, making his retirement perplexing. The unexpected retirement has been a mystery for over 20 years.

Various theories were proposed for the reason behind one of the best RBs‘ retirement, including dissatisfaction with losing, issues with the coach, or problems with the front office. Finally, the former RB has shared the reason why he retired amid his soaring career.

Barry Sanders discloses reason behind retirement

In a recent interview with OutKick’s “Don’t @ Me with Dan Dakich” Barry Sanders shared that his perspective on the game changed with age and he didn’t feel like playing anymore. 

“To try to answer your question, I think it’s interesting your perspective as a young player and as an older player,” Sanders said. “Most of the time, your perspective does change. Maybe I was too old at 31 to keep playing the game. Maybe I had lost a step. Who knows?”

He emphasized the role of faith in his life, providing a broader perspective on football and everyday life.

“I think that’s something that could help you in any walk of life or anything that you’re doing. I think it just kind of gave me a good perspective on the game and on life, my approach to everyday life. I think it was very helpful,” the former RB added.

Amazon Prime also released a documentary titled “Bye Bye Barry,” featuring stars like Eminem, Jeff Daniels, and Tim Allen. Barry Sanders also revealed the real reason for his retirement in this documentary: a loss of passion for the game.

Barry Sanders
Via Sky Sports

The former Detriot Lions’ RB shared that he retired because he no longer had the drive or passion to play, “For me, just that thing that drove me to play, which is that passion, just wasn’t there.” 

The former RB added that losing and the departure of key players also contributed to his decision. If the Lions had been Super Bowl contenders, he might have stayed.

“There was nothing really left to play for. I didn’t see us as any kind of a serious Super Bowl contender. … I felt like I was making a pretty clear decision. I just felt like, in my mind, this is pretty much it.”

Barry Sanders’ recent comments align with what he wrote in his retirement announcement 24 years earlier. At that time as well, he emphasized the greater desire to exit the game than to remain in it.

Barry Sander NFL career recap

Born on July 16, 1968, in Wichita, Kansas, Barry Sanders had a strong work ethic instilled by his roofer and carpenter father. Initially overlooked by larger schools, Sanders accepted a scholarship to Oklahoma State University (OSU).

He shared the backfield with Thurman Thomas during his early years at OSU. His junior year was exceptional. He won the Heisman Trophy and also set the records with 2,628 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns.

His NFL career started when the team with Honolulu blue and silver colored outfits, who had a good start to the 2023 season by defeating last year’s Super Bowl winners, drafted him in 1989. His rookie season is marked by exceptional franchise records. In 1997, the former RB led the league in rushing yards and exceeded 2,000 yards, becoming MVP.

Barry Sander NFL career recap
Via ESPN

He led his team to the playoffs in 1991. However, following that success, the team struggled to make subsequent playoff appearances. Sanders retired in 1999, leaving football with 15,269 rushing yards, citing a lack of passion and desire for the game.

Rumors of his comeback persisted, but Barry Sanders remained retired. After retirement, he experienced some contract issues with the team. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, he later reconciled with the Lions and became a team ambassador in 2017.

Today, he is considered one of the most legendary running backs the league has ever had. His extraordinary talent and skill on the field leave fans wondering about the additional accomplishments he might have achieved if his career had extended a bit longer.

Maheen Zaib

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Maheen is a writer for SportsZion. She's your go-to for all things NFL, from epic game highlights to trade scoops and breaking news. Navigating the sports scene with flair, join her on this thrilling journey through the NFL's wild ride. Let's score some great reads together!

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