Gunnar Gundy and Barry Sanders shared a field in Stillwater Saturday night.
Gundy because the Oklahoma State Cowboys throttled the TCU Horned Frogs 63-17 and Sanders because he was added to the Cowboy Ring of Honor.
Festivities for Cowboy fans attending the 7 p.m. blackout-themed game in Boone Pickens Stadium began two hours earlier, at the unveiling of a 9-foot-tall statue of Sanders, commemorating his time as a Cowboy.
The guest list was impressive.
Members of Sander’s offensive line the War Pigs, former coach Pat Jones, dozens of people in the Sanders family, coach Mike Gundy, OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg and president Dr. Kayse Shrum were some of the people participating in the ceremony.
Gundy talked about why it was so valuable to have Sanders back in Stillwater. Shrum shared a story of seeing her face alongside Sander’s on a Homecoming sign. Weiberg issued thanks to everyone who made the ceremony possible.
But all echoed the same sentiment: Sanders was one of the best to ever do it.
That is how Sanders found himself on the field at the half of a game already a blowout. In a brief ceremony, video messages were played on the big screen congratulating Sanders for his accomplishments. And again, the guest list was impressive.
Football legends Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Desmond Mason and Tim Tebow all spoke of Sanders' accolades. Even OSU alumni Thurman Thomas and Garth Brooks recorded messages, with Brooks calling Sanders the “Greatest fricking running back in college and professional football history.”
The curtain over the west side of the stadium covering Sanders name and number was pulled up, revealing the second name in the Cowboy Ring of Honor, alongside Thomas. A few more photos were snapped and a framed black OSU jersey bearing Sanders’ No. 21 was presented and then, keeping with the famed running back’s personality, the festivities were quietly over.
But his impact in the game was not.
The largest crowd in Boone Pickens Stadium this season, part of which came out for Sanders, had plenty to cheer about as the Cowboys continued to dominate the Horned Frogs.
Led in carries by senior running back Jaylen Warren, the Cowboys rushed for 447 yards.
Gundy was asked if Sander’s presence gave Warren any additional energy.
“For the story, I’d like to say yes," Gundy said. "But Jaylen likes to play. I’ll say yes for your story.”
The atmosphere, fueled partially by Cowboy touchdowns and Sanders hysteria, made for a dominating performance in a unique atmosphere for all players involved, including Gunnar, who handed the ball off three times and ran it himself once.
“It was different than a normal game,” wide receiver Brennan Presley said. “With everything going on, people coming back in town for (Sanders) just bringing attention to it; you got to love playing under the night lights, 7 p.m. black out that’s cool. So, I mean just the added mystique to the night I think that was kind of cool.”