STILLWATER, Okla. —
All Barry Sanders ever wanted to do was play Big 8 football. The former Oklahoma State running back said winning the Heisman Trophy in 1988 went beyond his wildest dreams.
It’s hard to imagine how Sanders felt Monday when he won the fan vote to join Baylor’s Heisman winner Robert Griffin III on the cover of EA Sports NCAA Football 13.
Is a game cover a bigger thrill than winning the Heisman? Probably not.
It may not have been as exciting for Sanders as rushing for five touchdowns against Wyoming in the Dec. 30, 1988, Holiday Bowl or the five touchdown games he had against Tulsa and Kansas that season.
The Cowboy running back played in the shadows of another legend Thurman Thomas until 1988 when Sanders rushed 344 times for 2,628 yards and 37 touchdowns.
He spent the next 10 years rushing for more than 1,000 yards a season for the Detroit Lions. Sanders finished his NFL and Lions career with 15,269 rushing yards on 3,062 carries and 99 touchdowns. He caught 352 passes for 2,921 yards and 10 TDs.
Detroit wasn’t an upper echelon team. It had just three seasons with 10 or more wins during Sanders’ career. Yet, he probably had more highlight runs than any other NFL runner in those years.
Some fans don’t understand why Griffin must share the box cover with another Heisman winner — especially one who hasn’t played college ball in 24 years or in the NFL in 14 years. The obvious answer is Griffin wasn’t a big enough name to carry the box cover alone. He won the Heisman, but the Baylor Bears didn’t win the Big 12 title and aren’t one of the tradition-rich programs in the conference.
Other fans say it doesn’t matter who is on the cover as long as the game play is improved. Sanders doesn’t know if the game will be improved.
He told sports radio host Dan Patrick that he doesn’t play many video games anymore. He has played NFL-based video games and told Patrick he played himself in those games.
He was a better running back in video games and enjoyed the video games more because the Lions sported better records, Sanders told Patrick.
Sanders never had the opportunity to grace a video game box cover in his college career.
EA Sports didn’t develop a college football-based video game until 1994. The NCAA Football incarnation started in 1998.
It’s great that Sanders can share the box cover with RGIII this season. Of course, it would be even better if Sanders and OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden shared the box cover.
Griffin won the Heisman, but Weeden and the Cowboys smashed RGIII and the Baylor Bears during the 2011 season.
You can’t have everything.
Someday, EA Sports will wake up and market its games with regional box covers — much like sports magazines do with their football-season preview covers. I can hear their pitch now.
“Hey, Oklahoma State fans, the Cowboys just completed their first Big 12 Championship season and quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for more than 5,000 yards. Now Oklahoma State’s best passer and best running back — Barry Sanders — will share the box cover of NCAA College Football.”
Maybe, EA Sports will get its marketing right someday.
The box cover isn’t the big deal. It’s all preseason hype.
The big question is game play. Will the graphics be improved? Will it be more realistic? That answer will come in July when the game is released.
Chris Day is sports editor for the Stillwater NewsPress.