Last Updated: November 24, 2023
Richest AthletesNFL Players
Net Worth:
$8 Million
Date of Birth:
Jul 16, 1968 (55 years old)
Place of Birth:
5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
American football player, Actor, Athlete
United States of America
💰 Compare Barry Sanders' Net Worth

What is Barry Sanders' Net Worth and Salary?

Barry Sanders is a retired professional American football player who has a net worth of $8 million. After playing college football for Oklahoma State, where he won a Heisman trophy, BarrySanders joined the Detroit Lions in 1989. He won the Rookie of the Year award in his first season. During his ten-season NFL career, Barry Sanders established himself as one of the most talented and elusive runners in football history. He led the league multiple times in running yards and won NFL Offensive Player of the Year twice. He was the league MVP in 1997. Most observers consider Barry the most agile runner the NFL has ever seen, and one of the best players of all time.

Interestingly, Barry's career came to an abrupt end when he retired suddenly in 1998. He was only a few yards short of breaking the NFL rushing record. He currently ranks #4 in all-time rushing yards.

As we detail later in this article, Barry earned a little over $30 million (pre-tax) in NFL salary during his career. That $30 million number may include a $7.5 million signing bonus paid in 1998 that Barry was eventually ordered to repay after his sudden retirement. If that's the case, his career earnings are $22.5 million. Barry has stated that he lives a relatively modest life today, using income earned from tax-free municipal bonds. He has at various times requested child support reductions and adjustments due to his income being significantly lower in recent years compared to his playing days.

Post Retirement Finances

After financial difficulties following his retirement, Barry stated that he mostly lives off the interest from $7 million in tax-exempt municipal bonds. He also stated that he has over $750,000 invested in stocks, mostly in various banks. Other forms of wealth include four real estate investments, although the exact nature and location of these properties are difficult to ascertain. Sanders has admitted that he continues to earn money with autograph shows.

Early Life

Barry Sanders was born on July 16th of 1968 in Wichita, Kansas. During his high school years, Barry established himself as a natural athlete and played alongside his brother. By the time he was a senior, it was clear that he was a natural running back. After graduation, Sanders had received scholarship offers from numerous colleges. He chose to enroll at Oklahoma State University and had an incredible season in 1988. Setting numerous college records, Sanders won the Heisman Trophy and became a target for many NFL teams.

NFL Career

In 1989, Barry was picked up by the Detroit Lions, and he immediately made an impact despite initial concerns about his short stature. However, Sanders proved to be both strong and quick, giving him a low center of balance that made him almost impossible to take down. During the 90s, Barry helped the Lions reach the playoffs nine times. It was one of the biggest tragedies of his career that he would never reach the Super Bowl, and he is considered one of the best-ever players not to play in a Super Bowl game.

During his many years with the Lions, Sanders averaged more than 1,500 rushing yards per season. It was not unheard of for him to rack up as many as 1,900 or 2,000 rushing yards per season, especially during key seasons in 1994 and 1997. Despite his strong performances, critics have lambasted Sanders for not "showing up" to big games, and he often proved to be disappointing during the playoffs. Despite being a star player, Barry was consistently humble – rarely engaging in over-the-top celebrations unlike so many of the stars during that era.

Career Earnings, Salary and Contracts

After being drafted in 1989, the Lions initially offered Barry a $2.6 million contract. At his father's insistence, Barry refused the offer and didn't turn up to the team's pre-season camp. People laughed at his father when he revealed publicly that he believed Barry was worth $10 million. People stopped laughing when Barry subsequently signed a 5-year, $9.5-million contract with the Lions. This is the equivalent of about $20 million in today's money.

In 1997 Barry signed the largest-ever contract for a running back up to that point. The 6-year, $34.5-million deal that came with a record-smashing $11-million signing bonus. The bonus alone would be worth about $18 million in today's money. The deal made Barry the highest paid player in the NFL.

Barry retired unexpectedly just two years into the contract. This prompted the Lions to sue Barry, and they demanded that he repay a portion of the signing bonus. A judge eventually sided with the Lions, and Barry was forced to pay back roughly $7.5 million of the bonus. In order to make this payment, Sanders reportedly liquidated various stocks. He also publicly stated that he was living a "modest" life since the retirement, admitting that he only owns one car after leaving the world of football behind.

Barry Sanders

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Financial Issues

In 2002, it was reported that Sanders was requesting a modification of his child support payments, claiming that his early retirement caused a dip in his income. Court documents revealed that his income had dropped from $6.4 million per year to just $851,000 per year after his controversial decision to retire just two years into his Lions contract. Barry subsequently asked a judge in Oklahoma County to eliminate a $7,000-per-year child support payment to his 8-year-old son and the mother. The money was allegedly purely to be spent on vacations for the mother and son.

In addition, Sanders requested that his additional $4,000-per-month child support payment be reduced slightly. Sanders protested at having to pay for a new car for the mother of his son every three years, something that was actually part of a court order in connection to the paternity lawsuit.

In addition, Sanders purchased a $200,000 home for his son to live in with the mother. He also payid for the furnishings, property taxes, and home insurance. The mother of his child argued that she needed at least $6,000 per month to live comfortably, and that she only earns about $28,000 per year. With all that said, Barry has repeatedly stressed that he wants to be involved in his son's life.

Real Estate

In 2003 Barry paid $532,000 for a home in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan. He sold this home in December 2017 for $510,000.

Today Barry's primary residence is a two-bedroom condo on a golf course in Detroit. He also owns a 7,000 square foot, lakefront mansion set on 10+ acres in Wichita, Kansas. This home is worth around $1.5 million. His parents lived here full time for the last several decades. His father died in 2011. His mother continues to live here all year round.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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