Thanksgiving is about food — and football. This year’s NFL lineup includes the Bears at Lions (CBS, 12:30 p.m. ET), Redskins at Cowboys (FOX, 4:30 p.m. ET) and Falcons at Saints (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET). But for fans of a certain age, Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders, 50, was the highlight of Thanksgiving Day during his Hall of Fame career. We caught up with the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner and 1997 NFL MVP to talk Turkey Day.
What did playing on Thanksgiving mean to you?
It meant a lot. Being in Detroit, the town rallied around that particular game. And knowing that so many more people were watching. And just the history of the game.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving football memory?
As a kid, watching Walter Payton play against the Lions in Detroit [in 1977]. Walter's brother, Eddie, ran back kicks against the Bears. It was cool that Walter was playing against his brother. For me, personally, the 1997 game against the Bears was, statistically [167 yards, three TDs in 55–20 win], one of my best. Those two games stick out in my mind.
Did you eat the turducken or eight-legged turkey that John Madden gave you after the game?
I tried my best not to. But it was always an honor to be there and be voted the Player of the Game and receive the eight-legged turkey or whatever that was, that was handed out. No telling how many people had passed that thing around. It was definitely a strange-looking bird.
Your rival, Emmitt Smith, also played on Thanksgiving every year. What are your thoughts on Emmitt?
You know what? I have known the name “Emmitt Smith” since high school. He was Parade Magazine Player of the Year. I remember hearing about him then. As far as the NFL, it was always great to get together with him at the Pro Bowl. It was always a treat to play against him; the heart and the determination that he played with. He's a great guy. I was at his golf tournament a few months ago. It was a great friendly rivalry between he and I.
Scoop & Score
Since retiring, Sanders has teamed up with Tostitos, the official chip of the NFL, to master the art of the “Homegate” — tailgating in your home. These Pecan Pie Scoops are the perfect sweet snack for a Thanksgiving football watch party and will hold you over until you dig into some turkey, side dishes and desserts.
24 Tostitos Scoops
¼ cup dark corn syrup
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (scant)
1 cup whipped topping
Toasted pecans, to garnish
• Divide chopped pecans evenly to fill the Scoops about ¾ full. Set aside.
• Whisk corn syrup, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Pour mixture over pecans, nearly filling the Scoops
• Bake at 350°F until edges are golden and filling is set (approx. 12 to 14 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.
• Stir together whipped topping and cinnamon. Serve pies at room temperature with whipped topping. Garnish with toasted pecans.