NFL Hall of Famer Compares Lamar Jackson to Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders

Getty Barry Sanders before a Lions game in 2016.

Lamar Jackson has been a revelation in 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens, and while it may be impossible to directly compare the quarterback to any other player, former league signal caller Troy Aikman thinks he has found a quality doppelgänger.

According to Aikman, Jackson reminds him of Barry Sanders, someone he knew well from his time playing in the NFC. Aikman admitted that after watching Jackson play the New York Jets, he was having flashbacks to Sanders.

“It seems like every time he has the ball, even when he doesn’t go for 30 yards or just the way he’s able to make people miss, I feel the same way watching him as I did when I was playing and we’d play the Detroit Lions and Barry Sanders and his ability. So he’s a dynamic player,” Aikman says in the clip.

As Aikman went on to say, Jackson means a lot for the Ravens not just in his ability to make big plays, but to be a stable presence as well in terms of leadership. That’s not unlike what Sanders would do for the Lions for years.

“More importantly for this football team, he’s a great leader. He’s a very unselfish guy,” Aikman said. “He passes around the credit to everybody else and I think that is part of being a great leader for a guy who is receiving so much attention. He’s very quick to single out guys like Mark Ingram and the offensive line and tight ends and all the jobs that are happening around him and the defense. He’s a special guy. He’s the engine that drives this.”

It’s not the first time Jackson and Sanders have been compared in the same breath, with fellow Fox analyst Charles Davis making that comparison a few weeks back.

How Lamar Jackson Compares to Barry Sanders

Obviously, there will never be another like Sanders in terms of all the things he could do on the football field and all the ankles he could break along the way at running back. Still, though, flashes of what Sanders used to bring to the table show up in what Jackson is able to do.

Take a game against the Buffalo Bills in which Jackson looked as if he was pinned in for an easy sack. Instead of getting hit, however, Jackson was able to juke out of the way and evade a tackle for a simple gain. The play may not have gone down as a huge gain, but it might be one of the most memorable runs of the year.

Similarly, Sanders could do the same things for the Lions when he had the ball in his hands. One minute, the defense would have him boxed in, and the next, he’d disappear with a big gain to keep the chains moving or provide the Detroit offense with a major boost.

In terms of humility, the two players are very comparable. Sanders would simply flip the ball to the referee after touchdowns and avoid flashy celebrations while crediting his teammates. Jackson is the same way, so the personality comparison is apt.

Obviously, Jackson probably wants to end up as revered as Sanders is in the NFL community and be a Hall of Fame player himself. With the start he’s had to his career, it’s looking more than possible.

Barry Sanders Stats

To see Sanders run the ball for Lions fans through the years was to believe given what he was able to do with the team on the field. Sanders routinely had the quickness and deft ability to break plenty of ankles on the football field and remains one of the greatest highlights in the game fans love watching even years after his retirement. Athleticism is something that came naturally to Sanders, no matter whether he was on the grass or the hardwood, something that was revealed recently.

With the Lions, Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns. He was routinely thought of as the best running back in the league, and would have shattered plenty of NFL rushing records had he decided to keep playing. Sanders, however, walked away from the game in 1999 on the eve of training camp, which stunned the Lions and all of their fans. The parties then went through a frustrating split for multiple years, based mostly upon the fact that the franchise made him pay back part of his contract amid retirement. It is a situation not unlike what is happening with Calvin Johnson currently.

The Sanders and Jackson comparison is one folks will be lining up to make in the years ahead, and with good reason. It means just a little bit more coming from someone with the clout of Aikman, who has had a front row seat to watch both players perform.

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