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Detroit Lions Black History Month Salute: Gentleman Charlie Sanders Has Always Stayed Involved

February 21st, 2014 at 9:22 AM
By Max DeMara

With February being Black History Month, Lions 101 takes time to salute the contributions of a few notable African American pioneers within the organization.

The Detroit Lions have long been known as a diverse franchise, but they have certainly had a few players setting the gold standard for other African Americans that come along to don the Honolulu Blue and Silver.

'Mr. Hall of Fame' photo (c) 2007, Dave Hogg - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Perhaps the best example of that is Charlie Sanders, a gentleman who also happened to be extremely good at football. Motivated by players before him such as Lem Barney and Dick "Night Train" Lane, Sanders carved out a fantastic career in Detroit, making seven Pro Bowl appearances, getting to the game four straight times 1968-1971 and three straight times 1974-1976.

All told, Sanders finished his career with 4,817 yards and 31 touchdowns, which were impressive enough amounts to get Sanders a call to Canton, Ohio in 2007. He became the fourth African American to go into the hall as a Lion, and was one of the most decorated players of the 1970s with regards to personal achievements and statistics.

Better than all of those accolades, though, has been Sanders' unwavering service to the team since finishing his playing days. Instead of disappearing, Sanders has made his home in Michigan and continues to assist the organization to this day in a personnel role. He established the Charlie Sanders Scholarship Foundation, which helps two needy Michigan students annually with their college studies. Generations have also gotten to enjoy his commentating work during the preseason, and he's a familiar face around training camp, always willing to chat or sign an autograph for the people.

All in all, Sanders hasn't slowed down a bit since his playing days have concluded, nor allowed his love for the franchise to fizzle over time. By staying active and involved for the team that drafted him and the community which embraced him, Sanders has become the gold standard as it relates to player loyalty and team service. As a result, he's become one of the most beloved Lions of all time.

Along the way, Sanders has helped set the tone for other players who come along, African American or otherwise, in Detroit. If young players want to learn a lesson about loyalty, service, commitment and to their football franchise, they need look no further than the former number 88, who remains a shining example of all to this day, and a pillar of the community.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Charlie Sanders, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Lem Barney, NFL

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