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An interview with Barry Sanders

By Jay Rogers
Published December 22, 2007

Starting tailback for the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders recently scored three touchdowns in the third game of the NFL season leading his team to victory. “The Barry Sanders’ Show” – one news network called it, but this kind of performance should come as no surprise to those who are already familiar with his career.

Barry was the Heisman Award winner of 1988, while playing for Oklahoma State, yet was surprisingly overlooked at Wichita North High School by most college recruiters, possibly because of his height – 5’8”. But it was his speed and notorious vertical leap that helped him set 13 NCAA season records in his junior year. His numbers are especially impressive since he often sat out the 4th quarter of many of OSU’s most dominant games. Barry’s college coach – Pat Jones – described his running ability as “explosive.” Barry’s kickoff touchdown returns of 100 yards plus in OSU’s first possession in each of the opening games of the 1987 and 1988 seasons is a remarkable feat. Says Coach Jones, “He takes your breath away.”

Barry was drafted by the NFL in his Junior year at OSU, and was picked up by the Detroit Lions in the first round for the following season. After earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1989 and coming within 10 yards of the rushing title, he won the rushing title outright in his second season. Last year, Barry rushed for 1,304 yards and scored a league leading 16 touchdowns.

FR: Can you tell a little bit about your family background?

Barry Sanders: I was one of eleven kids, eight sisters and two brothers. We were a close knit family. My mother is a Christian and we went to church every Sunday. She was hard working and a great inspiration for me to work hard. After all the kids were grown, she went back to school to get her degree because she always wanted to be an RN. So she went to nursing school.

FR: What about your Christian testimony? You grew up in church, but was there ever a time when you made a deeper commitment to God?

Barry Sanders: Yes, after college. Like I said, I grew up in church; I was baptized in the eighth grade, but I didn’t really understand what it meant. Then it was in college that I really had my faith tested. It was there I found out how lacking my faith was. I reached a kind of breaking point. Then I met some people who challenged me to a greater commitment – people who really loved God and were walking with God with no compromise. They weren’t afraid to get in my face and challenge me. That’s the point when I was saved.

I was really influenced through my upbringing, but then I came to a point where I had to repent for a lot of things. This happened after my last year of college, before I began playing in the NFL.

FR: Do you feel that this experience has affected your success in playing football?

Barry Sanders: Yes, of course! Christianity affects your whole life. I feel I’m more competitive, a better player, but off the field is where there is always a battle. That’s where the power came. I was always successful on the field, but now I’m successful off the field too.

FR: There has been a growing interest in Christian athletes by the media recently. I just saw a Nightline show recently featuring Reggie White (of the Philadelphia Eagles). What’s behind the new interest?

Barry Sanders: I think they’re curious. They want to know what it is. Some have bad intentions; they want to criticize us. Some have good intentions; they’re looking for something positive. All in all they’re looking for something to sell papers and magazines, and not to preach the gospel. Most are sincere; they admire us and want to portray a man who has something good.

FR: You’ve set a lot of records in the past few years. Do you have any goals for the 1991 season?

Barry Sanders: Yes, a team goal – to go to the playoffs. The Lions haven’t been to the playoffs in the last two years. This year though we have a winning mentality.

FR: Who are the teams to beat this year?

Barry Sanders: We have a tough schedule. There are a lot of good teams to beat, Minnesota, the Bears, the Bills, Dallas, and of course, the ‘49ers, but I think we can win.

FR: You said that your mother was a great influence in your life. Are there any other people who have influenced you, like your coaches? What does the name Wayne Fontes mean to you?

Barry Sanders: Coach Fontes? He’s a comfortable guy to play for. He doesn’t apply a lot of pressure. He’s a guy that’s easy to talk to. He doesn’t have an ego problem. He’s open.

FR: Who else has influenced you?

Barry Sanders: Well there’s Greg Ball (of Champions for Christ) whose been discipling me. He’s a person I can confide in and he’s helped me in keeping on track. There are a lot of people who have spoken words of correction and have prayed for me. Lakita Garth is a good friend; she has ministered to me a lot. And there’s Tom Sirotnak – he always has a good word. He is always encouraging me. I really like him – he’s on fire, man! He’s got a big heart and is a real man of God.

Editor’s note: One of the most striking aspects you will notice in talking with Barry Sanders is his humility. In the professional sports arena – a world full of big egos – Barry seems to exemplify the type of character anyone would admire. Lion’s coach Wayne Fontes is one person who has been impressed by his humble personality. On the final game of the 1989 season, Barry was within ten yards of the NFL rushing title. Coach Fontes asked Barry if he wanted to come off the bench and try to surpass the 1,480-yard record held by Christian Okoye of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Barry Sanders declined. “Let’s just win it and go home,” he said.


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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“…a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

$17.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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Go Stand Speak (DVD)

With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?

Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?

Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?

These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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