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Charlie Sanders - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2007

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on AmericanChronicle.com, Saturday, February 10, 2007

It’s about time!

The recent selection of former Detroit Lions tight end Charlie Sanders to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2007 was, in my opinion, long overdue. I have been saying for years that he deserved to be in Canton and many longtime Lions fans have felt the same way.

I saw him play in person a couple of times towards the end of his career when I was a teenager. In fact, it was while attending my third Lions game ever in 1977 that I was fortunate enough to be there when Sanders became the Lions all-time leading receiver.

I remember the play that gave him the record like it was yesterday. The Lions were lined up near the goal line, ready to score. Quarterback Greg Landry faked a handoff to the running back, who ran to his right. Landry rolled out to his left. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on both teams ran to the right side of the field, except, that is, for Landry and Charlie Sanders, who both went to the left. Sanders was so wide open in the end zone that I could see him plain as day, even from my seat clear at the other end of the stadium. He caught the ball for the touchdown and fell backwards into a sitting position in the end zone. Soon after, the public address announcement told the crowd that Sanders was now the Lions all-time leading reciver. The place went wild.

Sanders was selected by the Lions out of the University of Minnesota in the third round of the 1968 NFL Draft and he played 10 seasons in Detroit. He went to the Pro Bowl seven times. Even more remarkable than his playing career is the fact that Sanders has been with the Lions, in one capacity or another, ever since. He spent eight years as an assistant coach on the team, two years coaching tight ends and six years coaching wide receivers. He has also spent time as the team's assistant director of pro personnel, he was a radio broadcaster for the team and he is currently one of the team's player scouts.


I remember seeing Sanders on an old NFL Films highlight show catching a touchdown pass at Tigers Stadium in Detroit, where the team played prior to moving to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975. Sanders dove through the air, caught the ball, hit the ground hard and rolled off the field of play. It was an incredible catch. When he got up, he simply tossed the ball to the official and jogged back to the bench. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.

Every year, the Hall of Fame announces a new class of inductees and every year the list contains the obvious high profile players who have recently retired from the game. Those are the easy selections because they are guys who are still fresh in everyone’s mind. But then there are usually one or two players on the list that a lot of people will say, “Who is that?” Charlie Sanders might be that guy to a lot of people outside of Michigan this year, but not for me. And not for a lot of Lions fans who have followed the team for many years.

Charlie Sanders was thrilling Lions fans long before another guy named Sanders (I think his first name was Barry) came along in 1989. Charlie Sanders was a great blocker and rarely dropped a pass. If the ball came anywhere near him, big number 88 would surely come down with it. After he retired, no one wore that number for many years. That was until wide receiver Scotty Anderson donned it from 2001-2004. It has also been worn the last two seasons by wide receiver Mike Williams.

In 2005, Sanders co-wrote a book entitled, "Charlie Sander's Tales from the Detroit Lions." The book is a collection of stories and anecdotes that Sanders retells about many of the men who have played for the team over the years. The book is a must-have for any Lions fan and should be on their bookshelf right next to a copy of George Plimpton's, "Paper Lion."

Another Lions great who played at the same time as Sanders was Lem Barney, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992. Barney played for the Lions for 11 seasons from 1967-1977. Who could have known back then that we were watching a couple of future Hall of Famers wearing the Honolulu Blue and Silver at the same time?

Sanders is the 14th Detroit Lions player to be inducted into the Pro Footbal Hall of Fame.

Congratulation, Charlie! See you in Canton.


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