By Kyle Dierking, NewsOn6.com
OKLAHOMA CITY - There's no question why he's here.
"The best thing to do is go out there and be your own person," said Barry Sanders, son of the former OSU running back and former Detroit Lions star. "That's what my family has told me to do for 15 years. You've got to be your own person no matter who your parents are. You have to make a path for yourself."
Growing up as the son of Barry Sanders has been a blessing but there's also the unfair hype that comes with being the son of a star athlete.
"That's the biggest challenge. Usually all the headlines, it's, ‘Barry Sanders son,' ‘the son of the hall-of-famer,'" Sanders said. "But hey, I guess it comes with the territory. I have to live with it."
"My dad puts no pressure; my family puts no pressure so I don't think I should put pressure on myself."
He does, however, watch lots of film of his famous father, especially the 1988 Heisman Trophy season.
"Every game just seemed like a highlight reel, especially the Holiday Bowl that year," Sanders said.
"I can definitely understand the runs and what was going through his head. Basically, it's all instinct - that's what I can see. He just reacts to the defender and lets his reactions do all the work."
The younger Sanders will only be a sophomore at Heritage Hall, but he already has a highlight reel of his own. His 64-yard touchdown run in the state semi-finals last season generated more than 1.3 million views on YouTube.
"I guess I inherited the instinct as you would say," Sanders said.
But football talk between father and son has been few and far between. After scoring three touchdowns in a state championship win in December, it was two simple but heartfelt words spoken.
"I got into his rental car and he told me ‘good job,'" Sanders said. "That was enough for me."
Sanders says that was the extent of on-the-field advice he's received. But, like father, like son, Barry Jr. is developing a style all his own.
"I try to keep the being as good as my dad comparison out of it, but trying to be as good as that great player," Sanders said. "That's definitely what I try to accomplish."
"His numbers are out of this world. For somebody to compare themselves to him, they're asking for failure. It's big shoes to fill."
Q&A WITH THE SON OF BARRY SANDERS
Kyle Dierking: What was it like coming into high school and people knowing who your dad is? Did you feel like unfair expectations have been put on you?
Barry Sanders: Yeah. I don't try to pay too much attention to it. I do know there are a lot of people who expect certain things. I just try to come out here and do the best I can do. I guess the numbers will speak for themselves one way or another.
KD: People were already looking out for you, then you had the huge breakaway run that was a YouTube hit several months back.
BS: It was exciting. It was I think the morning after the game I got a few texts saying it had got a bit popular. It was fun. I definitely didn't expect it to show up on YouTube and the other websites. I guess that can be a good and bad thing. Hopefully that turns into a positive thing.
KD: What has it been like growing up in Oklahoma and bearing the same name as arguably one of the greatest college football players to come from this state?
BS: For the most part it has been pretty normal. I don't know if people treat me differently, but (laughs) like I said things have been pretty easy. It's been fun.
KD: Growing up did you want to play football or was it, "my dad played so I think I should play?"
BS: I started in about second grade I think. I don't know I think I just wanted to play because I think I was interested in it. I didn't become a true running back until seventh grade here (Heritage Hall). In sixth grade I was a back-up fullback -- youngest guy on the team -- I've always played up in sports. My seventh grade year is when I found myself as a true running back. I guess its gone from there.
KD: So are you a big Lions fan?
BS: I wouldn't say a big Lions fan but I support them. My dad and I actually went to the last game that they won when they played Kansas City. I'm a Redskins fan because I like Clinton Portis. They also have Jason Campell and that defense. The Lions -- they're coming along -- they have my good old friend Brandon Pettigrew. So hopefully he can put in a little work and they can win a game or two. They have some things that are looking up. If they go to the Super Bowl, I'll be there (laughs). I'll definitely be there.
KD: It seems like some guys stay in their profession too long or some will say, "they had five or six good years left." How many good years did your dad have left when he retired?
BS: I think he had as many as he played. Every once in a while somebody will ask him why he left or it will somehow get in the conversation and he'll say he got tired. He played 10 years and that's enough. That's definitely a good amount of years. It was I guess rough on him those last few years. It hurts when you only have two or three winning seasons and those can definitely come down on you pretty hard especially toward the end. He definitely gave it all he had while he was there. It probably would have been worse if he would have stayed and his heart wasn't in it. He definitely made the right decision for himself.
KD: What are your goals as you enter the next three years of high school?
BS: You know, like always, just go as far as possible. Gold Balls are always good. As far as personal, I could care less as long as we get the "W."
KD: I heard you played baseball. So between the two what's your favorite?
BS: What's my favorite? That's a pretty popular question, pretty popular question. I definitely have a love for both baseball and football. I'm probably not going to play basketball next year so I'll be able to put a lot of time into both. But baseball I definitely could see myself playing it for four years, maybe beyond. Who knows? Definitely right now those are the two popular ones with me.
KD: It's early, but If you had to chose between the two what would you pick?
BS: Wow. Wow. I don't know. I enjoy being on the field for both of them. I know baseball you can play for a lot longer, but football is so exciting -- the adrenaline. I don't know if I can answer that question right now. Maybe next year (laughs). But right now it's a coin toss.
KD: What's one moment can you take from last season and say, "that's something dad did?"
BS: I guess there are a few runs that I'll look at here and there, but more so the pictures. I have a lot of pictures that look like or resemble him.
KD: So is the relationship between you two more father and son and less football?
BS: Most definitely. We watch football and we go to different events together. For the most part, it's just father and son. Every once in a while as a football fan it's kind of interesting but it's definitely enjoyable to be in this situation.
KD: Have you told your dad that you're going to need a car from the dealership (Barry Sanders Super Center in Stillwater)?
BS: You know what, that conversation has come up a couple times recently. I like the Ford's -- I'm an Explorer guy. I've talked to a couple guys he's worked with and they're not going to let me get a Ford. "Friends can't let friends buy Ford's is what they say." (laughs). I get my permit in October, so we'll see...I would like to have one of those Barry Sanders Super Center tags on the back of my car. That would be nice -- that'd be pretty sweet.
KD: I'm sure he can make that happen.
BS: Yeah, yeah I'm sure he can.
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