Wichita North gives Barry Sanders hero's welcome

10/28/2011 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 5:16 PM

As Barry Sanders walked on the red carpet into the North High gym Thursday afternoon, the spotlight directly on him, the North students chanted "Bar-ry San-ders, Bar-ry San-ders!"

Sanders was at North as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's ceremony for the Hometown Hall of Famers program. He is the fourth Hall of Famer to be honored, and a plaque of Sanders and his accomplishments will be hung at North.

Sanders has a subdued personality, but the pep assembly in his honor was anything but.

North's dance team performed — but so did the cheerleaders, the band, the flag team and the drum line.

The students did the wave, T-shirts commemorating the day were thrown into the stands and there were multiple competitions on which grade could yell the loudest.

It was the kind of ceremony Sanders' father, William, would have relished. William Sanders died on June 1 at 74.

"He would have loved to have been here," Barry Sanders said. "He would have loved this. He was from the '57 class of North High. My mom was right soon after.

"It's special. So many of my moments that I had here, he was here. He brought me to all my games, was cheering and supporting me and telling me what I did wrong when I got in the car on the way home."

And if someone had mentioned William Sanders during the ceremony, well, that would have made Sanders' dad even happier.

"He would have definitely been in his element," Sanders said. "He spent many days in this gym. Not just supporting me, but supporting all my brothers and sisters who played here. This place is very special to the Sanders family."

Sanders, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, recently opened car dealerships in Stillwater, Okla. And he has taken college visits with his son, Barry Jr., a highly recruited running back at Heritage Hall High in Oklahoma City.

"It's exciting to see him go through the process," Sanders said. "I've been able to go with him on a few recruiting trips, see a few coaches that I know. That's been kind of strange or funny.

"But it's fun. It's a different world now."

Sanders spoke briefly to the North students. He apologized for the sweater he wore in his senior picture, laughing as he called it "an accident."

"I never thought in a million years when I walked the halls of North High that I'd be in the NFL, let alone a hall of famer," he said. "It's truly an honor. You just never know what's waiting for you beyond high school."

Sanders also recalled his favorite moments at North, especially game day, the pep rallies, the cheerleaders' war-cry dance and the chocolate chip cookies brought by football moms.

Sanders enjoyed coming back to North, walking through the same halls he walked through 25 years ago.

" (North) is special, it's unique," he said. "It's my foundation for everything I've ever done. It's great to have a place to come back home to. Not just a place you call home, but a place where people know you, have known you most of your life, knew you in your formative years."

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