Barry Sanders 'excited' to see Adrian Peterson with Lions as he approaches Hall of Famer's rushing mark

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Barry Sanders is a great admirer of fellow Hall of Fame-caliber running backs, so he has enjoyed watching Adrian Peterson all these years.

And it’s even more enjoyable now, watching Peterson play for the Lions.

“I’ve always been very fond of Adrian; he’s one of the all-time greats,” said Sanders Tuesday while launching Pepsi’s new “Happy Golladays” campaign with wide receiver Kenny Golladay. “He’s just a fantastic talent.

Barry Sanders

“Watching him (Peterson) in college, he played in the same conference where I played and against a rival team (Sanders for Oklahoma State, Peterson for Oklahoma), and I’ve always had a lot of great respect for him.”

But now that Peterson is with the Lions, Sanders gets to watch Peterson inch closer to Sanders on the NFL all-time rushing list.

Among the NFL's career leading rushers, Sanders ranks fourth with 15,269 yards, and Peterson is close behind at 14,530.

“It is ironic that he’s playing for the Lions and he’s coming up on the all-time list,” Sanders said.

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Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726) and Frank Gore (15,657) are the top three.

What Sanders respects about Peterson is the fact Peterson, even at age 35, is a productive and dangerous player.

“The great thing is, the guy is still playing at a high level,” Sanders said. “We love having him here in Detroit. He is one of those guys that he brings his lunch box – I guess that metaphor still connects with people. He brings his lunch box and you know the guy runs hard.

“He’s been a nice addition to the offense. As a fan I’m excited to see him here.”

The way Peterson trains and works on his body, said Sanders, is the key to Peterson’s longevity.

“He takes great care of his body; he’s always been in fantastic shape,” Sanders said. “When he got injured he knew exactly how to get back to where he was before.

“He understands what it takes to prepare yourself. He’s always been just a great physical specimen.

“He’s one of the all-time greats and certainly in the last handful of years one of the best players and running backs, and definitely a future Hall of Famer.”

Sanders and Golladay are launching, with Pepsi, a holiday campaign for Lions fans, to help celebrate football and fandom during a festive time of the year.

Fans can win a limited-edition “Golladay” holiday sweater, a virtual cooking class and a holiday meal with Golladay and his private chef, Chris Donaldson.

Adrian Peterson

Around the NFL, with stands mostly empty because of the pandemic, it’s been a different looking year. Sanders says he can't imagine playing with no fans.

“Watching on television, it’s a little bit strange," Sanders said. "But I’m sure for them (current players), it’s more of an adjustment. I guess knowing there’s millions of people watching (on different platforms), that kind of makes up for it.”

Having no fans in the stands, said Golladay, has affected the atmosphere in stadiums.

“It’s just kind of dry,” Golladay said. “The first couple of weeks was a little bit of trial and error. They had to figure out what they were allowed to do with the mics and everything. The first home game, I didn’t play, but I was on the sideline and during the TV timeouts, injury timeouts, just timeouts, period, it’s quiet. You can hear anything. Every check the defense and quarterback was making, it was weird.”

As the NFL season approaches November, and near the halfway point of the schedule, players are grudgingly getting accustomed to the quiet.

“After a while, you are out there just playing ball,” Golladay said. “(Not having) fans, it’s different for sure. But once the game gets going, you still have to compete and go up against that guy across from you.”

Twitter: @tkulfan