They said there would never be another running back like the elusive, darting Hall of Famer, but it turns out there is.
Here's the rub: Stanford junior Barry Sanders might be a chip off the old block, but the Cardinal is so deep at running back this season, he may have to settle for sharing time with three others in the team's backfield.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Stanford, picked to finish second in the Pac-12 North Division after winning two consecutive conference championships, believes it has a group so deep it will probably use a rotation in the backfield, at least at the beginning. So Sanders, son of former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders, will get on the field but only in measured doses.
"We feel like we have a great group of guys," coach David Shaw said Thursday at Pac-12 Media Day. "If one guy outperforms the others and becomes more of a steady guy, that's great. I'll let that happen naturally."
Stanford has usually relied on a singular back - Stepfan Taylor, then Tyler Gaffney - in its grind-it-out style. But a rotation will keep everyone fresh and give all four players a chance to emerge at the primary back, if they can.
There's Sanders, Kelsey Young, Ricky Seale and Remound Wright. Another, freshman Christian McCaffrey, might also get a shot if he isn't redshirted.
Of the returning players, only Wright carried the ball as many as 20 times last season. Young gained the most yardage (120). But in a new year, they'll all have opportunities.
"They all bring something to the table where they're going to have to play," Hogan said. "Ricky has great vision; he's going to find the hole. He's an older guy in the offense and knows it very well. Barry is very elusive. Get him out in space and he's hard to bring down. Remound is very strong. He's going to hit the hole hard and carry guys. Kelsey Young is very elusive too. He's been back and forth from wideout to slot to running back. He's going to have to touch the ball."
Sanders, who had five carries for 42 yards and also caught four passes for 31 yards, will bear watching, if for no other reason than his bloodline.
He might not have the same catch-me-if-you-can style as his father, but he's apparently very similar.
"He's got the privilege and burden of his name to where he gets a lot of attention," Shaw said. "But at the same time, he knew he had a lot to learn. He came in, learned a lot and grown a lot. It's time for him to see the field.
"There will be days when he looks like his father, and that's exciting, that's awesome. He doesn't think of it that way. He just wants to be himself."