Lions to honor Barry Sanders with statue outside Ford Field

Flashback to SC announcing Barry Sanders' retirement (1:21)

SportsCenter's Steve Levy and Bill Pidto break the news that Hall of Famer Barry Sanders retires from the NFL on July 28, 1999. (1:21)

DETROIT -- One of the greatest players in NFL history is receiving his flowers in a major way. An 8-foot bronze statue of Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders will be unveiled outside Ford Field ahead of the 2023 NFL season.

He will become the first player in franchise history to be immortalized outside of the arena.

"I can't believe the jokes have already started among my teammates about the height of the statue. Can you believe that?" Sanders joked. "Thank you so much to the Detroit Lions and the entire Ford family. I'm truly honored and humbled by this, but I've got to say I'm truly blessed to play here in front of these amazing fans in this great city since 1989."

The news was announced during the halftime ceremony of Sunday's Lions homecoming game against the Miami Dolphins by his former teammate Chris Spielman, who is now the franchise's special assistant to president/CEO and chairperson.

"Never more beloved by Lions fans, never more deserving of a monument here in Ford Field," Spielman said. "Barry, on behalf of the Ford family, and the Detroit Lions organization, it is my pleasure to announce that we will unveil an 8-foot bronze statue of you here in Ford Field ahead of the 2023 season."

Lions fans roared, then chanted "Barry! Barry!" as Sanders stood on the field alongside a plethora of franchise alumni. Sanders still holds numerous franchise rushing records and has the fourth-most rushing yards in NFL history (15,269). He won the NFL's MVP award in 1997 and was named first-team All-Pro six times in his legendary career in Detroit, which lasted from 1989 to 1998.

There also is a 9-foot-tall statue of Sanders at his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, which was unveiled last year.

"I know the official celebration won't happen until next fall, but I'm looking forward to sharing that special moment with all of these fans and my teammates and Lions nation," Sanders said. "I'm so humbled and honored by this. Thanks a lot."