Sportress of Blogitude

Detroit Lions hire Barry Sanders as team ambassador

Barry Sanders is again officially a member of the Detroit Lions organization almost 18 years after his sudden retirement.

While Sanders has become a bigger presence with the Lions in recent years, the team announced it has hired the Hall of Famer to serve in the capacity of team ambassador.

“We’ve thankfully, the last couple years, had an unofficial relationship with him,” Lions president Rod Wood told the Detroit News. “This year, we’ve formalized it. You described it well, it’s kind of a brand ambassador. He’ll be going on road trips, showing up for suite visits, he’ll be at the Taste of the Lions event and just interacting with our fans on behalf of the team.

“It’s a formal agreement. I worked with Barry and his agent to put something together that works for both of us. It’s not a football role. It’s more of a marketing, business role.”

Sanders is the team’s all-time leader in rushing (15,269 yards, No. 3 in NFL history), touchdowns (99) and has the rest of the Lions franchise rushing records essentially on lock down.

Sanders’ agent, J.B. Bernstein, acknowledged that the Lions have always wanted a relationship with Sanders. Although the well-publicized contentious ending to the parties’ relationship served as a roadblock. As noted, though, things have mellowed of late, with Sanders making a handful of appearances at team functions.

Sanders said in February at Super Bowl LI that he was encouraged to become more active with the Lions after meeting Wood and general manager Bob Quinn after they were hired.

“I had good meetings with both of them, joked with Quinn about how similar Detroit is to Boston,” Sanders said. “Pretty early on, I had a chance to talk with them and they said the door is always open. They definitely made me welcome and at home.”

Bernstein insists despite the estrangement, Sanders always remained loyal to the Lions organization.

“Barry was a Lion, is a Lion and will always be a Lion,” he said. “I don’t think he ever saw himself as not being part of the team.”

And now, it’s official once again.

[ESPN]