Sanders Jr. not just his father’s son

JON MACHOTA
FOXSportsSouthwest.com Special Contributor
February 13, 2011
 
He shares many characteristics with one of the greatest football players to ever strap on a helmet.

His smile, laugh, voice and facial expressions draw distinct comparisons to the father he is named after.

However, Barry Sanders Jr. is a different runner.

The high school sensation from Oklahoma City’s Heritage Hall is bigger, has more of an upright running style and may actually be faster in the open field than his dad.

For obvious reasons, college coaches from all over the country have shown interest in the running back that just finished his junior season.

According to a story in The Oklahoman, Sanders Jr. already possesses 14 official Division I scholarship offers to go along with plenty of interest from several other programs.

But at this time, the son of the NFL Hall of Famer prefers to sit back and take it all in.

“I’m not in a rush to do anything,” Sanders Jr. told The Oklahoman. “I’m going to take my time and see what’s out there. This is going to be a well-thought-out decision.”

Listed on every major recruiting publication’s rankings of the top players in the 2012 class, the 5-11, 190-pounder has stated that his current favorites are Oklahoma State, Alabama, Florida State and UCLA.

In regards to Alabama and Florida State, Sanders Jr. said, “Alabama is a proven program that’s always looking to get better. At Florida State, I love what coach (Jimbo) Fisher is doing there. He has recruits excited about the program.”

But don’t count out the school his father won a Heisman Trophy with or the school in Los Angeles that was the first to offer him a scholarship. Also keep an eye on a probable offer from the Texas Longhorns.

Sanders Jr. attended the Red River Rivalry game in October and was seen sporting a burnt orange Longhorns hat.  However, the athletic back with several breathtaking runs documented on YouTube.com downplayed the headwear to Rivals.com, saying: “I bought the first hat I saw, because it was hot out there.”

He then added: “Mack Brown, I think he’s a great coach. I’ve heard some good things about (the) university, heard some good things about Austin. I know Malcolm Brown. I got a chance to spend some time with him this summer. He committed to Texas.

“Texas is somebody that I’ve been telling people for a long time that I have some interest. We’ll see if they look at me.”

When it comes to the Big 12, it would be difficult to imagine Oklahoma State not having a great shot at landing Sanders Jr.

“Living in Oklahoma there is definitely a lot of Oklahoma State fans that come up to me and say that we’d love to see you in orange, but when I make my decision it will be based on the program that fits my style and who will be able to compete for the ultimate prize,” he told Rivals.com in July. “We’ll see when it comes that time. If they look like the best option then we’ll go with that. If not, then I’ll have to weigh my options.”

The aspects of the school in Stillwater that have impressed Sanders Jr. are the proximity to his home, the athletic facilities and his relationship with the Cowboys’ coaching staff.
But playing for OSU would undoubtedly bring more comparisons to his father than any other college choice.

“At any school there will be comparisons and I know that if I go there, there will be a lot of people expecting me to do the same things that he did,” Sanders Jr. said. “But it’s a different time. The offense is way different. I know they run a lot of option stuff and a lot of screen passes with the new coordinator. So we’ll see what the offense is looking like and what they have to offer me.”

At the present time, Sanders Jr. is recovering from foot surgery that prevented him from playing in the second half of last season’s run to a state championship. Before the injury, he rushed for 1,168 yards on 96 attempts with 16 touchdowns.

On top of being a phenomenal running back, Sanders Jr. compares to his father in his ability to keep his emotions intact. Despite his Junior Days visits to several schools, Sanders Jr. has kept the majority of his thoughts to himself. 

“To be honest, we don’t really talk about recruiting all that much,” Heritage Hall junior wide receiver Sterling Shepard told The Oklahoman. “He tells me where he’s going to go for visits and stuff like that. I tell him where I’m going, but that’s really about it.”
Some interesting and significant advice has been given to him by his mother during the recruiting process. She has told him “not to look at the pressure of being his father’s child.”

“I don’t want other people’s expectations to take him to a place he doesn’t want to be,” his mother, Aletha House told The Oklahoman.

And it appears that her son is taking her advice.

“I just try to stay level-headed,” he told Rivals.com in July. “My family has done a great job with me, loving me and keeping me on the straight path that I need to be on. I look forward to continuing down that road.”