Barry Sanders, 50, is arguably the greatest running back in football history. Sanders was the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State and 1997 NFL MVP during his 10-time Pro Bowl career with the Detroit Lions. These days, he’s enjoying his retirement from the comfort of his couch, snacking and watching the next generation of football stars.
Recently, Sanders teamed up with Tostitos, the official chip and dip sponsor of the NFL, to promote the ultimate “Homegate” — tailgating in your home — with the Tostitos Stadium Sofa, which includes built-in charging stations, a fridge drawer, tablet holders, LED lighting for team colors, Tostitos chip and dip bowls, a pull-out trash can, Pepsi cupholders and elevated second row seating so no fan will miss a play.
For a chance to win the Tostitos Stadium Sofa, Homegate hosts can tweet #TostitosHomegate and #entry Sept. 6 through Sept. 10 and it will be delivered right to your living room. Check out @Tostitos Twitter account for full contest rules.
We caught up with Sanders to talk Tostitos, running backs, Thanksgiving Day football, the Heisman House and his old friendly rival, Emmitt Smith.
Tell us about the Tostitos Stadium Sofa…
Being retired, I like to sit at home sometimes and take in the game. Well, the Tostitos Stadium Sofa has things like a USB charger. It has a refrigerator. It has an iPad. You can check in on some of your stadium stats and what have you, LED lights that you can program to your team's colors and things like that. The hashtags are #TostitosHomegate#Entry. You do that between Sept. 6 and Sept. 17 and you have a chance to win this great sofa.
What are your must-have items for throwing a Homegate game day watch party?
My must-have items are a nice beverage, a good Tostitos chip. Those will be the main ones. Maybe a slider or two, something like that, a burger. I'm pretty simple.
With the Tostito chips, say you've got a seven layer dip, what's your favorite layer? Guacamole? Beans? Cheese? Who you got?
My favorite dip, really just a plain kind of a mild salsa, nothing too extravagant. Just salsa.
Who's your favorite running back to watch these days?
There's a group of them. I mean, Le'Veon Bell, who went to school at Michigan State, that’s a kid that I've sort of always watched. Adrian Peterson, who went to the University of Oklahoma, the rival of my school (Oklahoma State), so I've always kept an eye on him. And then some of the young guys. It will be very interesting to see what Zeke Elliott does this year. He kind of had taken over the reins as the top back after his rookie campaign and obviously he sat out a lot of games last year. You look at (Todd) Gurley. You look at (Leonard) Fournette. You look at (Alvin) Kamara. (Kareem) Hunt. Just a fantastic group of young running backs in the game that I'm really excited to watch this season. We drafted a guy with the Lions, Kerryon Johnson. It will be interesting to see how he fits into their scheme this year.
Thanksgiving is a combination of food and football as a holiday and you were such a big part of Thanksgiving during your career. What did it mean playing on Thanksgiving, knowing that you were the only game in town and a lot of people, myself included, looked forward to watching you play on Thanksgiving with their family?
It meant a lot. It meant a lot because just being in Detroit and the way that the town kind of rallied around that particular game and that particular week. And knowing that so many more people were watching and tuning in and just the history of the game.
If I were to go back to a favorite memory, it would be as a kid watching Walter Peyton play against the Lions in Detroit, and Walter's brother, Eddie, ran back the kickoff against the Bears. I don't know how old I would have been, maybe 12, 13 something like that, but I still remember that game. It was cool that Walter was playing against his brother.
And then for me personally, I don't know, I think the 1997 game against the Bears was probably, statistically, one of my best. Those two games stick out in my mind.
Did you ever 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, I don't know, 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.
This is the 30th anniversary of your 1988 Heisman Trophy. I love those Nissan Heisman House commercials. Talk about filming those…
They're always a blast. It's always fun to catch up with a lot of the guys that I watched play and a lot of the younger guys that have come after me and long after me. Just be able to sit down with them and rub shoulders with them and that sort of thing, it's a great elite group of players that college football fans identify with and will always remember. It's certainly a special time.
Is there anybody in the Heisman House that plays real life pranks off camera?
There's certainly some pranks being played. I think they caught some on camera that I think they're going to show, but you’ve got a great mix of personalities, so you certainly do have some pranksters.
You and Emmitt Smith were the two great backs of your era. What are your thoughts on Emmitt Smith?
You know what? I have known the name Emmitt Smith since high school because he played on one of those teams that you always heard about even back in the '80s. He was Parade Magazine Player of the Year. I remember hearing about him then, and when I went to Oklahoma State there was a kid from Pensacola, Fla., and I would always ask him about Emmitt Smith. “You played against Emmitt Smith?”
As far as the NFL, it was always great to get together with him at the Pro Bowl. I think we were driven in a lot of the same way, to be great, to try to be the greatest running back and the greatest player. It was always a treat to play against him. You look at just the heart and the determination that he played with.
People think about the Dallas Cowboys back then and they refer to Emmitt and Troy (Aikman) and Mike (Irvin) as the “Big Three,” but I think Emmitt was probably the most valuable part of that Big Three. And I always remember the season where he sat out the first two games and they lost those couple of games and then when he came back, they went on to win Super Bowl. He's a great guy. I was just at his golf tournament a few months ago… It was a great friendly rivalry between he and I.
(For fans in the Dallas area, Tostitos is bringing the Stadium Sofa to the Cowboys home opener Sept. 16 as part of the Pepsi Generations Tour, where fans can meet former NFL players and catch a concert by country music superstars LOCASH.)