STANFORD -- Barry Sanders isn't chasing his famous father, the Hall of Fame running back with the same name.

But that didn't stop some fans from marking the resemblance last weekend during Stanford's only public practice of the season.

Sanders, a redshirt freshman back, found space on the outside during a controlled scrimmage that conjured images of his father a quarter-century ago when he won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma State.

The younger Sanders doesn't run from the comparisons because he knows they are coming.

"If people say I look like him, that is a great compliment," said Sanders, who likes to go by Barry J. -- as in middle name James. (His mother gave him the middle name to distinguish her son from his dad.)

"It rolls off his back," Cardinal coach David Shaw said of the comparisons. "He wants to be his own guy. He wants to wear his own number. He's as mature and comfortable as anybody who has been with a relative of that fame."

Sanders, whose father appeared at some practices last week, has never made a big deal about sharing his father's name -- and game. They look alike, and those who have met both say they sound alike.

"I don't remember not being comfortable with it," Sanders said in one of the few interviews he has given since arriving at Stanford.

It has helped growing up in Oklahoma with his mom, Aletha House, who separated from her husband when Barry J. was young. While Sanders lived in Detroit, his son was able to find his own way far from the celebrity shadow.


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Sanders has watched his father's highlight films countless times and tries to model his style after the Detroit Lions great.

"He was one of the best," Sanders said. "Why not try to replicate the best?"

He invited comparisons while setting rushing records at Heritage Hall High in his native Oklahoma City. Sanders gained 5,037 yards and scored 70 touchdowns in his high school career.

But the Stanford back has said his father's exploits can't be duplicated, minimizing the idea that all it takes is good genes to gain success. The son also has said his father played a minimal role in coaching him in football.

"He's more concerned about me being a student," Sanders said. "He understands at a certain point the football stuff comes natural. You just have to play to get better. There's not much you can teach somebody."

Sanders is one of five backs Shaw expects to use this season to replace the workhorse record-setter Stepfan Taylor. The pecking order favors veterans Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson. Ricky Seale, Remound Wright and Sanders are the others.

Sanders has impressed coaches with his ability to open up space on the outside but also run between the tackles. Shaw also appreciates how the son of a star has asked for nothing.

"He wants to learn and grow," the coach said. "He knows he's not at the finish line yet. So many guys with his talent and background say, 'I need to be a starter.' "

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.