|Perhaps the greatest running back of all time,
Barry Sanders’ son follows in his dad’s footsteps
One of the things I always find fascinating is the offspring of former pro athletes. Growing up as the son of an NFL or NBA player must be a completely different lifestyle than I was accustomed to as a kid. And there must be a ton of pressure on these kids, too, to follow in their footsteps or be a laughingstock. I mean, there are certainly kids out there whose fathers were great football players but the kids can barely sniff the field. I can only imagine what parents and players say to or about those kids.
But for lots of kids, the genes they’re blessed with and the things they learn from their dads add up to some pretty good talent, too. Here’s an incomplete list of the 2012 recruits whose fathers made it big. Feel free to add the names of any others, because I certainly don’t know of them all.
Torey Agee (son of Tommie Agee)
Torey is a 6’3″, 246 lb. defensive end who is headed to Vanderbilt. He had 32 tackles and 4 sacks for Opelika (AL) Opelika as a senior. Tommie – the football player, not the baseball player – was a fullback for the Seahawks, Chiefs, and most notably the Dallas Cowboys during their dynasty in the early 1990s. Agee only had 675 total yards and 2 touchdowns in his seven-year NFL career, but when you lead block for Emmitt Smith, lots of people see your name.
Zach Banner (son of Lincoln Kennedy)
Lakewood (WA) Lakes offensive tackle Zach Banner is a 6’9″, 310 lb. kid who spurned virtually every school in the country to attend USC. His father, Lincoln Kennedy, was the Atlanta Falcons’ first round draft pick out of Washington in the 1993 NFL Draft. He spent eleven seasons in the NFL with the Falcons and Raiders and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
Ray Buchanan, Jr. (son of Ray Buchanan)
Hailing from Suwanee (GA) Peachtree Ridge, the younger Buchanan is a 5’11”, 178 lb. cornerback with 4.47 speed. He grabbed offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Purdue, but ultimately chose the Arkansas Razorbacks. Ray Sr. played for the Colts, Falcons, and Raiders, amassing 871 tackles and 47 career interceptions. He retired after the 2004 season having one Pro Bowl under his belt.
Keith Byars II (son of Keith Byars)
Boca Raton (FL) Boca Raton’s younger Keith Byars is a 5’10”, 195 lb. running back who fielded offers from the likes of Illinois, Iowa, and Rutgers, but has yet to choose a school. His father was a running back for Ohio State and remains #2 on their career touchdown list with 50. After college he was the #10 pick overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, which launched a career spent mostly as a fullback/H-back for the Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets. He finished his career with one Pro Bowl selection for his 3,109 yards rushing, 5,661 yards receiving, and 54 total career touchdowns.
Alex Carter (son of Tom Carter)
Ashburn (VA) Briar Woods safety Alex Carter is the son of Tom Carter, who was a 1st rounder out of Notre Dame chosen by the Redskins in 1993. Tom played for the Redskins, Bears, and Bengals before retiring with 27 career interceptions. The 6’0″, 193 lb. Alex had an offer from his dad’s alma mater but chose Stanford instead.
Nick Davidson (son of Jeff Davidson)
Eden Prairie (MN) Eden Prairie offensive tackle Nick Davidson is a 6’6″, 275 lb. offensive tackle who committed to Stanford over offers from Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina, and others. His dad Jeff was an Ohio State offensive tackle and was a 5th round draft pick in 1990. He played four seasons with the Broncos before retiring, and is now the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings.
Mario Edwards (son of Mario Edwards)
Denton (TX) Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards is following in his father’s footsteps by choosing Florida State, but the 6’4″, 275 lb. (or bigger) defensive end/tackle is significantly bigger than his dad, who was an NFL cornerback. The elder Edwards played for Florida State and the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Dolphins before retiring with 180 tackles and 4 interceptions.
Hardy Nickerson, Jr. (son of Hardy Nickerson)
The younger Nickerson, from Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd, is an inside linebacker just like his father. He stands 6’0″, 218 lbs., has a 3.7 GPA, and claims a 1560 on his SAT. He committed to Cal last summer, but he also was offered by Colorado and Nebraska, among others. The elder Nickerson was a 5-time Pro Bowler with 1,586 career tackles for the Steelers, Buccaneers, Jaguars, and Packers, but he really made his name as the MIKE linebacker for the Buccaneers during their defensive heyday in the 1990s. He is now the head football coach at Bishop O’Dowd.
Trey Griffey (son of Ken Griffey, Jr.)
Griffey is a 6’2″, 190 lb. wide receiver who committed to Arizona. He also held offers from Michigan State, Washington State, and a bunch of smaller programs. At last check he had 61 receptions for 839 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior, and he earned praise during the Under Armour All-American Game and practices for his route running and hands. Griffey attend Orland (FL) Dr. Phillips, the former home of Michigan tight end Ricardo Miller and former Michigan commit Demetrius Hart, now at Alabama. It seems unlikely that Griffey will be a college football star, but he could be a very steady possession receiver for the Wildcats. It’s strange to think of him as a collegiate athlete, because I remember seeing his father holding him when Trey was just a toddler. I feel old. Ken Griffey, Jr. has loads of accolades as a professional baseball player, including 13 all-star selections, 10 Gold Gloves, 630 home runs, and an American League MVP Award, most of which came with the Seattle Mariners (although he later played for the Reds and the White Sox). Of course, Grandpa Griffey (Ken Sr.) also played in the Major Leagues, whacking 152 homers and appearing in three all-star games.
Barry Sanders, Jr. (son of Barry Sanders)
Sanders, Jr., who had 1,343 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, is the son of the greatest running back of all time. He committed to Stanford during the Army All-American Bowl last month, but he had an offer from virtually every noteworthy school in the country (although Michigan was conspicuously absent from the reported list). Barry Sr. is arguably the greatest running back of all time. In a professional career spent entirely with the Detroit Lions, he rushed for 15,269 yards and 109 touchdowns while annually gaining 1,000 yards and getting nominated for the Pro Bowl. He is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Deion Sanders, Jr. (son of Deion Sanders)
The younger Deion Sanders holds an offer from Houston, although he has yet to commit to a school. He’s a 5’7″, 170 lb. athlete, and that size might be a concern for a lot of schools. “Neon Deion” played in the NFL for the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, and Ravens and excelled as a cover man and returner. He picked off 53 passes and had 22 total touchdowns on interceptions and special teams returns. Sanders, Sr. also played for the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball, where he was a light-hitting but speedy outfielder. He finished his professional baseball career with 39 homeruns, a .263 batting average, and 186 stolen bases.
Alston Smith (son of Bruce Smith)
Alston is a 6’3″, 272 lb. defensive tackle headed to his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech. Hailing from Virginia Beach (VA) Cox, he garnered limited FBS offers, but the only one that mattered was from the Hokies. Bruce, of course, is the Hall of Fame defensive end who was the #1 overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1985. He played for the Bills and Redskins, racking up 200 quarterback sacks and 11 Pro Bowls in 19 seasons.
Kodi Whitfield (son of Bob Whitfield)
Kodi, from Los Angeles (CA) Loyola, is a 6’2″, 197 lb. wide receiver who is headed to Stanford. His dad Bob Whitfield was a 6’5″, 318 lb. offensive tackle who was picked #8 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1992, also out of Stanford. Bob played for the Falcons, Jaguars, and Giants before retiring after the 2006 season. He made one Pro Bowl with the Falcons during his career.
Other children of notable athletes:
Michigan offensive lineman signee Kyle Kalis (son of Todd Kalis)
Stanford offensive tackle signee Andrus Peat (son of Todd Peat)
Auburn quarterback signee Zeke Pike (son of Mark Pike)