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Heisman 1988 winnner Barry Sanders
AP Photo/Susan Ragan

Oklahoma State's Camera-Shy Tailback

1988 Heisman winner Barry Sanders

When Oklahoma State tailback Barry Sanders won the 1988 Heisman, he and the Cowboys stood half a planet away -- in Tokyo, preparing to play Texas Tech. The announcement came at 7:50 a.m., Sunday, local time, only a few hours before kickoff. First problem: CBS Sports wanted Sanders to accept on live television. That meant Sanders would have to get out of bed in the wee hours of game day and be driven to a TV studio in downtown Tokyo. Second problem: Sanders, whose aversion to publicity became better known during his NFL career, had no interest in getting out of bed, much less being on TV. Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones solved that by enticing the offensive line to wake up and go with Sanders. Jones told CBS that Sanders would accept the award but that they didn't have time for interviews. "They swore to me we wouldn't have to do any," Jones wrote in his 2007 book, Tales from the Oklahoma State Sideline. Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Telander went to Tokyo with Oklahoma State to write about the Heisman winner. "Sanders walked into the TV studio on Sunday morning looking as though he were about to be publicly flogged," Telander wrote. "A technician tried to position a monitor next to Sanders so that he could watch the same highlights of himself that viewers back in the States were seeing, but he told the man to turn off the monitor." The announcement carried little suspense. Sanders rushed for 2,628 yards that season, still an NCAA season record. Sanders made a short, polite acceptance. And then, Jones, the host said, "Stay right here and we'll be right back with an interview of Barry Sanders." Sanders never did the interview. CBS lost the feed from Tokyo. "I was really irritated and didn't know what to do," Jones wrote, "but there were some plugs in the wall, so I just reached down, pulled out the plugs, and we got out of there." Oh, those technical difficulties.
-- Ivan Maisel


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