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January 7, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - Barry Sanders never had a problem slipping defenders like his famous father during his illustrious high school career in Oklahoma - sometimes seemingly taking on all 11 would-be tacklers at once.
But after spurring his father's alma mater, Oklahoma State, for Stanford during the most anticipated college announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Saturday, he'll face his toughest task: Taking on an entire state.
Sanders already has begun explaining his decision to Oklahoma State's passionate fan base.
"I'll always be a Poke," he said. "The school has meant so much to my family that it will always be close to my heart."
It just won't be where he'll spend his next four seasons of football.
His mom, Aletha House, was emotional after Saturday's ceremony.
"This was a long time coming," she said. "We let him make this decision on his own. There was a lot of speculation, but I told him I would be really supportive of wherever he chose. I'm just proud that he did this on his own."
College decisions are difficult for all big-name recruits - and they often can backfire in public relations disasters when stars spurn the favorite college in their area.
That didn't happen with Sanders.
Sanders is confident the OK State fan base will be OK with the decision, too.
"I have been very up front about this throughout the process," he said. "I've talked to many rooms filled with many Oklahoma State fans.
"I think they understand that there are many opportunities in front of me and that I have to do what I think is best for me."
Oklahoma State's program is in excellent shape - coming off an 11-win season, a victory in the Fiesta Bowl and a likely No. 3 finish in the final rankings.
Its fans, however, hoped Sanders would continue the legacy of his father, who won the 1988 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State after running for an astounding 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns. His father went on to star for the Detroit Lions, earning a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Oklahoma State was hoping the younger Sanders would continue the legacy.
The school's loss is Stanford's gain.
Sanders rushed for 1,343 yards and 24 touchdowns in his senior season at Oklahoma City (Okla.) Heritage Hall. He scored on a nifty 10-yard run on this first carry in the All-American Bowl, taking an inside handoff before cutting outside and beating the East defense to the pylon.
Sanders, who has a different middle name than his father, did not grow up in the same household as his father, but they maintain a solid relationship.
"He's a cool dude," he said. "We like hanging out."
Future meetings, however, just may not be at Oklahoma State events.