Barry Sanders or Sterling Shepard? Instead of worrying about who's better, just enjoy watching them

by Jenni Carlson Published: July 23, 2011

He is a high school football superstar and a big-time national recruit. He is a son of Bedlam and a product of his pops, playing the same position his father did in the NFL. He is fast and strong, agile and intelligent.

He is the best player in Oklahoma.

But who is he? Barry J. Sanders or Sterling Shepard?

On the day The Oklahoman culminates its Super 30, Sanders stands atop the list of the state's top recruits. The Heritage Hall running back is being courted by a who's who of college football — Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and UCLA.

But there are people who will argue he isn't even the best player on his team, much less the best player in the state.

Here at headquarters, we hear from these folks every time we run a story on Sanders. They ask us why we write so much about him. They tell us that we've got the wrong guy.

Shepard, they insist, is better than Sanders.

Who is better?

No question is juicier heading into this season.

It starts with their Bedlam pedigrees. Sanders is the son of former OSU legend and Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders, while Shepard is the son of former OU standout Derrick Shepard. Sanders' dad went on to play in the NFL. So did Shepard's dad.

Now, Shepard has committed to play ball for the Sooners like his dad.

Sanders may follow in his dad's footsteps, too, and become a Cowboy.

Who among us doesn't love a little Bedlam intrigue?

But really, the question of who's the better player goes beyond that. Sanders has been grabbing headlines for years. Our sports section ran a picture of him on the football field for the first time on Oct. 26, 2006. He was in seventh grade.

Hey, Sanders is the son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

And he played like it even early in his high school career, rushing for 743 yards and emerging as Heritage Hall's primary back late in the season as a freshman, then rushing for 1,707 yards and scoring 30 touchdowns as a sophomore.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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