Barry J. Sanders suffered a foot injury that cost him eight games of his junior season.
Funny how things work out sometimes.
Without that injury, he would've never visited Stanford and likely would've committed to play college football somewhere else during Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Instead, Sanders announced before a national television audience on NBC during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game that he had chosen Stanford over Oklahoma State, Alabama and Florida State.
Sanders had his foot surgery in California in late 2010, and when he went back for a check-up in December, decided to check Stanford out.
“I went over to the campus, just to check it out; not knowing what I was gonna get myself into,” Sanders told The Oklahoman in a telephone interview after his announcement.
Was he at all interested in Stanford before that visit?
“I should've been,” Sanders said. “But no, not until that visit.”
David Shaw, now Stanford's head coach but then the Cardinal's offensive coordinator, came to Heritage Hall once to recruit Sanders before the visit.
“I wasn't really interested at all,” Sanders said. “I got hurt, went out there on a visit and fell in love with it.
“After that visit, I knew it was a special place. I knew if I was able to get in there, it might be a possibility.”
That was the problem. Sanders was academically qualified for every other school he was interested in, but Stanford requires its prospective students to take a few extra classes and holds them to higher academic standards.
“My goal was to get admitted and I did,” Sanders said. “I made my decision after that.”
A source close to Sanders told The Oklahoman on Thursday they were “confident” he would choose Stanford, and Sanders himself said the same day that he had qualified for the Pac-12 school.
But it wasn't official until he got a call Friday morning from Shaw, who told him he had been admitted to the university.
“There were a lot of emotions,” Sanders said. “I knew then that was where I wanted to go.”
Sanders, who Rivals ranks as the eighth-best running back prospect in the country, said last month he has ‘bled orange for a long time' and struggled with the decision in large part because of his lifelong love for the Cowboys. His father, Barry Sanders, won the 1988 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State before going on to one of the greatest careers in NFL history.
“I've been close to the (OSU) program for a long time,” Sanders said. “But they were very understanding.”
Heritage Hall coach Andy Bogert said: “I think a lot of people at OSU understand that it's tough to follow in your father's footsteps. He wants to make his own path.”
A path that could have been very different if not for a — lucky? — foot injury that required surgery.
“I don't think they were on the radar until he went out there,” Bogert said. “I think it worked out for him.”