Sunday, August 05, 2007

Charlie Sanders, Hall of Fame tight end. That sure has a nice ring to it...

For all the bile I spew at the Lions, I sometimes forget that there were players on the Lions, despite the team's constant pratfalls, of whom I was a huge fan.

Barry Sanders was one. He's the only Lion I ever had a jersey of, and still have, as a matter of fact. My number 20 Sanders jersey is my favorite piece of clothing, worn every Sunday of the football season. As an adult, I know it's silly, but I guess it's may way of showing Barry how he made this Lions fan Sunday's bearable.

But as a kid growing up in the 70's, my favorite Lion was Charlie Sanders. In Saturday's Drew Sharp column, he described, as a kid playing in the snow, trying to make the same sort of circus catches Sanders made look easy. To be honest, I'd do the same exact thing with couch cushions piled up on the basement floor. We all wanted to emulate Charlie Sanders.

Without question, Charlie Sanders was the best tight end I ever saw play.
You youngsters don't know what you missed...

In my mind, Sanders was the best tight end I've ever seen play. He was the prototype for the type of tight end that became became much more commonplace from the 80's on. Rather than be nothing more that an additional lineman, Sanders was a downfield weapon on offense. You didn't see tight ends split the seam back then. For the most part, they were a short yardage option. Charlie Sanders helped change the role of the tight end in the NFL.

Sanders not being in the enshrined in Akron was, in my mine, a monstrous oversight. He was the best tight end of his era, and one of the best of all time. If Sanders had the good fortune to have played for one of the glamor teams of the 60's and 70's, he would have been in the pro football hall of fame years ago.

Instead, much like other greats who spend their careers in Detroit (Do not get me going on Ozzie Smith getting into Cooperstown, yet Alan Trammell can't get 15% of the vote. Shows what a farce HOF voting can be), his accomplishments were ignored, much to any Lions fan chagrin. Anyone who saw Sanders in his dominant prime knew he long deserved to be enshrined.

So to see that hall of fame slight corrected today, with Sanders deservedly entering the hall, warmed this long time fan's heart. Much like Barry Sanders, Charlie Sanders often was the only highlight of another Lions loss. A loss that was no fault of his own.

A tight end who could actually get yards after the catch? Who could catch the ball in traffic?
Who never dropped the ball? It once wasn't all that rare a thing to see in Detroit,
where Charlie Sanders terrorized defensive backfields...

As much as I tried as a kid, I never could play like Sanders (At least I did get to play tight end as a freshman, even if I was a glorified lineman), but it was a treat to be able to watch him wear the Honolulu blue and silver with honor.

And God damn, could Sanders make circus catches...

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