The NFL lost one of its legends this week with news that Tom Brady would be retiring, and the announcement brought plenty of league stars current and former out of the woodwork.
Brady was NFL royalty in a way few players are, so it would only make sense that similar royalty would get to tease him about walking away in the best possible way. Detroit Lions’ Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders did just that.
After news of Brady’s retirement began to circulate, so too did the shout-outs for the future Hall of Fame star. Sanders offered perhaps the best shout-out of the bunch, teasing Brady about one notable and fantastic statistic.
After playing for 22 total years, the quarterback did manage to post 1,123 rushing yards as a drop back passer, a feat that was very noteworthy to Sanders, a former dominating running back in the league. In congratulating Brady, Sanders took time to point out the number, and how fantastic and surprising it was.
“We all hail the incredible career of Tom Brady – his 1,123 career rushing yards are truly amazing. Seriously congrats on one of the greatest pro sports careers ever. Wishing you & your family everything you dream of in retirement,” Sanders tweeted to Brady last week.
While Brady only rushed for 1,123 yards, he did manage to throw for 89,214 and 649 touchdowns. Sanders only managed one completion on four attempts for 11 yards when throwing the ball. Interestingly, Sanders was also intercepted once in 1996. He did, however, rush for 15,269 yards.
Neither Brady nor Sanders should ever have quit their day jobs in the NFL at quarterback and running back specifically. Each were amongst the best to ever do it at those positions in league history.
Clearly, that’s something the legendary running back finds more than funny about the legendary Brady.
Sanders’ Career NFL 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 and the incredible plays he was able to make.
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, something that was constantly proved with every big play he turned in.
With the Lions, Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns. He claimed the NFL MVP award in 1997. 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 in the league. Even such, he made his impact felt constantly, and remains a human highlight reel.
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.
Time has healed all wounds, however, and now Sanders is back in the fold as a team ambassador. After the career he had, it was only fair it would happen that way.
Sanders, Brady Walked Away on Top of Games
Much like Sanders did in 1999, Brady elected to walk away from the NFL this past week. While Sanders may have retired young in the minds of some at age 31, Brady walked away from the league having managed to play until 45.
On Wednesday, February 1, Brady revealed his retirement with a message, and within, chose to thank his teammates and competitors.
“Thank you guys so much, to every single one of you for supporting me. My Family, my friends, my teammates, my competitors. I could go on forever. There’s too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you all,” Brady said in the message.
In his final two seasons, Brady had passed for 68 touchdowns to just 21 interceptions and threw for 10,010 yards. Similarly, Sanders rushed for 3,544 yards and 15 touchdowns in his last two years playing in the league. Conceivably the argument could be made that both had more left in the tank when they decided to go.
Amid his retirement, Sanders makes several visits a year to Lions, and was recently named to Detroit’s All-Century team, which is a major feather in his cap given what he was able to do as a team leader and a dominating force in the franchise. Brady is likely heading for those same honors as well.
As a result of his early retirement, Sanders maintains his health and vitality and looks phenomenal. It’s likely the same will be said for Brady on down the line as well.
It will be fun to see whether this duo connect at all within their retirement. Given their stature as league legends, it could be more than possible.