It's not hard to determine Barry Sanders' favorite college team.
Sanders, a star running back for Heritage Hall and the son of NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, hasn't hidden the fact that he's a big Oklahoma State fan. He wears the jerseys to the games and has been to around 15-20 OSU contests, he said.
It's his father who was a legend while playing for the Cowboys. It's his father's name on the Supercenter car dealership in Stillwater. The Sanders name carries a ton of weight in Stillwater.
But as the younger Sanders begins his junior year on the field in a couple of weeks, how does his love of the Cowboys play into his decision of where to attend college?
"It's wide open right now," Sanders said. "It's going to come down to a lot of things. I've got a great support system of family and friends that will help me when it's time."
Sanders has listed OSU, Notre Dame and Tennessee as his three early favorites of his seven offers. The battle is nowhere near done, and for the most part, it really hasn't even begun. There are still several schools he'd like to see and probably several that will still come knocking on his door.
He got a taste of what it's going to be like this summer at the prestigious Top Gun Camp in Williamsburg, Va., where he was named one of the top underclassmen by Rivals.com.
Sanders said he couldn't count the number of times while he was there that people wanted to introduce themselves just to say hey. Participating in the camp itself was the only time Sanders could relax.
He got to see what lies in his future, watching people hound running backs Malcolm Brown of Cibolo, Texas, and Aaron Green of San Antonio.
Brown is ranked as the 10th-ranked prospect in the nation by Rivals. He has offers from a list of who's who in college football, including Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas. Green has 27 offers, including the usual suspects of OU, Alabama, Texas and USC.
"They all had their own (recruiting) stories," Sanders said. "They said it can be pretty annoying at times. They don't even want to answer their phones. I know it's going to be rough."
There isn't much universities can do during the summer, but Heritage Hall coach Andy Bogert said the attention regarding Sanders increased in the spring months.
Sanders is accustomed to the attention at this point. Most still refer to him as Barry Sanders Jr., though technically that's not correct.
His father is Barry David Sanders, while he is Barry James Sanders. Regardless, the comparisons are always there. He hasn't flinched yet.
"I didn't notice any difference in him," Bogert said about the added attention. "With Barry, he's just one of the most easygoing kids I've ever been around."
Said junior quarterback and wide receiver Sterling Shepard: "He's just Barry to us. He hasn't changed because of the attention."
The younger Sanders is a lot bigger than his 5-foot-8 father. He said he still doesn't know how to put on weight, but he has been able to get a lot stronger.
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Sanders has unofficially been clocked at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash and has a 31-inch vertical jump.
Initially, the hook was that he's the son of one of the greatest running backs in the game. That will always be there, but Sanders is slowly making his own way and showing he is deserving of the accolades.
"He's very mature and just a natural leader," said Justin Mitchell, publisher of OKVarsity.com, the Oklahoma Rivals site. "He's an intelligent, well-spoken guy and people just want to be around him.
"He's going to take care of business in the classroom, work hard and stay out of trouble. When you have a guy like that is as talented as he is and does that, it makes everyone around him better."
Sanders was a role player on the Chargers team that won the 2008 Class 2A championship, but he took the reins as the No. 1 option last year as a sophomore.
Despite just about everyone in the stadium knowing the ball was coming his way, Sanders accounted for more than 2,000 total yards of offense and 30 touchdowns. And in his first year on defense, he had six interceptions.
Heritage Hall, along with several other prominent 2A programs, is making the move up to 3A this year and is expected to contend for another gold ball.
Sanders said the team is finding its identity a lot earlier this year, and he knows he can't do it alone.
"It's not just me — we have so many talented kids on our team, and we're all coming together," Sanders said. "We're a tighter unit, and I think it's going to show this year."
District 3A-3 coaches' poll 1. Kingfisher (12-3)* 2. Heritage Hall (8-5)* 3. Bethany (7-4)* 4. Newcastle (4-6)* 5. John Marshall (9-3)* 6. Centennial (4-6)* 7. SeeWorth Academy (1-9)* * Denotes new to district 2009 record in parentheses