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Same Name Game: Meet the other Barry Sanders, Matt Kemp and others

Some names carry more weight than others, and for the average person, sharing that name with a famous athlete can be a burden, small blessing or humorous story.
by Berry Tramel and Ed Godfrey and Jenni Carlson and Jacob Unruh Published: February 25, 2013

photo - Barry Sanders, 70, plays football with his six-year-old corgi Rollie at his home on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Blanchard, Okla.  He has the same name as a sports celebrity.   Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman  STEVE SISNEY - THE OKLAHOMAN
Barry Sanders, 70, plays football with his six-year-old corgi Rollie at his home on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, in Blanchard, Okla. He has the same name as a sports celebrity. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman STEVE SISNEY - THE OKLAHOMAN

Sanders also received a ton of letters for the football-playing Sanders while living in Rankin, Mich.

“I used to get letters from kids,” he said. “I read a whole lot of them. A lot would say they were making a report on him and they would want some information.

“They all talked about how they admired him and would like to be like him. A lot of them would ask if he could send them something, like an autograph or a picture or a keepsake.”

Sanders started answering the letters, telling the kids that they had the wrong Barry Sanders, but eventually there was so much mail that he stopped.

“After awhile, you get tired of putting on that 30-cent stamp,” he said.

Sanders moved to Blanchard in 1998 and the phone calls still came, although less frequently. Then, people started calling in search of the son, the Barry Sanders who played for Heritage Hall and is now at Stanford.

For the most part, Sanders has enjoyed having the same name as the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma State University, joking with people at places like the airport when they recognize the name. But he has never tried to take advantage of it.

Although he did make a point one day to walk up and introduce himself to former University of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer in a Norman car dealership.

“I said, ‘I'm Barry Sanders.' He just laughed and said, ‘A Detroit boy.'”

Eric Dickerson

Eric Dickerson is an Oklahoma alum and a Sooner fan.

Still, he wasn't sure he wanted Adrian Peterson to break the NFL single-season rushing record this season.

“It's not very much fun to tell everybody that you have the same name as the guy with the second-best single-season rushing record,” he said.

Former NFL great Eric Dickerson still holds that record, and the Norman resident who shares the same name is fine with that.

Dickerson was in elementary school in Enid when the running back was in his heyday. He played football, and even though he was always a lineman, his friends always gave him a hard time about his name twin, who had a distinctive look with big goggles, big hair and an upright running style.

“Why aren't you wearing goggles?” Dickerson's buddies in Enid would joke.

He graduated high school a year before Dickerson retired from the NFL, and for many years afterward, the jokes died down. Because the football-playing Dickerson was out of limelight, fewer people made the connection.

Then, Peterson started making his assault on Dickerson's record.

“It seemed like a lot more people found out who he was,” said Dickerson, who now lives in Norman.

Dickerson pulled for Peterson to break the record.

“But part of me was like, ‘Hey, that's kind of my record, too,'” he said. “I kind of take a little ownership in it.”

Sherry Cole

Sherry Cole understands the look that's about to come each time she says her name for a reservation at an Oklahoma hotel or area restaurant.


It's one of disappointment and she already has her answer prepared. She's said it enough times.


“No, I'm not the famous one.”


Cole said that's how she responds to the person whose eyes are scanning her for any recognition to “the famous” Sherri Coale, Oklahoma women's basketball coach.


Although they both grew up playing basketball and were both offered college basketball scholarships, they look nothing alike. Cole is a 5-foot-10 American Indian. Coale is a 5-foot-1, blonde Caucasian.


They do both love Oklahoma women's basketball. Coale is in her 17th season as Sooner coach, while Cole dons her Oklahoma shirt and watches them from her home in Stillwater.


“There's more of us than you think up here,” she said of the Sooner fans living in Cowboy country.


Cole has grown to love Coale and what she represents  —  though it's technically Cole's name.


“I was here first,” Cole said. “I know she got it (the last name) by her husband. This is mine. I was born with it. ... but anymore, I wish I was her because her job and her prestige  — I wish I was her. But I'm pretty happy right where I'm at.”

by Berry Tramel
Columnist and Reporter
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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by Ed Godfrey
Sports Producer/ Designer/ Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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by Jenni Carlson
Reporter and 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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by Jacob Unruh
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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