The Legend of the Thanksgiving Day Classic: Barry Sanders

By Luis Vilanova
Barry Sanders
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Thanksgiving Day, you cannot help but think of the Detroit Lions. It has been almost a decade since the Lions celebrated a victory on Thanksgiving Day; their last win came against the division rival Green Bay Packers in 2003. It’s also been 20 years since the Lions won their division after defeating the Packers at the Silverdome and they are in a great position to win the NFC North. This Thanksgiving is also very special for Lions’ fans because it marks the 25th anniversary of the debut of Barry Sanders playing in a classic.

In 1989, rookie Sanders led the NFC in rushing with 1,470 yards and scored 14 touchdowns to finish the season trailing Kansas City Chiefs‘ great Christian Okoye. On Thanksgiving Day, Sanders had one of his most explosive days of the season as he rushed for 145 yards to help the Lions defeat the Cleveland Browns 13-10. In 1990, he broke out lose against the Denver Broncos again as he ran for 147 yards to lead his team to 40-27 victory. This was the start to the Legend of Barry Sanders, and watching the Lions on Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning.

Toward the end of a short career, Sanders would institutionalize the Thanksgiving Day game as the “The Barry Sanders Show.” In 1997, he went on to add to his highlight reel a performance that would immortalize his name as he rushed for 167 yards and scored three touchdowns to pass Erick Dickerson on the all-time rushing list.

Tomorrow, the Detroit Lions fans expect a win to commemorate 25 years of greatness with a win over the Green Bay. The sacred torch has been passed to Calvin Johnson and the time to win the division is now.

Luis Vilanova is a Detroit Lions writer for Follow him/her on Twitter, “Like” him/her on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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