Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.
Sanders gets big chance
Originally published Aug. 24, 1985
For Thomas Sanders, a lot is riding on the Cowboys game.
While the rest of the rookies have played two games, Sanders went down with a bad hamstring the day before the St. Louis game and didn’t resume practicing until after the Colts game.
If he is going to show the Bears he can push their two veteran backup halfbacks, now is the time to start shoving.
“I know it’s a big game for me,” said the Texas A & M product, who was the Bears’ ninth-round pick. “I haven’t felt this way since I was a freshman in college.”
Coach Mike Ditka also is eager to see what Sanders can do and planned to make Sanders the second halfback he uses. Walter Payton is expected to play up to a half.
“Sanders looks strong,” Ditka said. “He’s running good, but he’s been missing some blocking assignments, though, and that hurts. But he looks OK.”
Sanders is from Giddings, Texas, about 200 miles from Dallas, but his family won’t make the trip. They’ll wait until the Bears return for a regular-season game against the Cowboys Nov. 17.
“We talked about it, but we decided they should wait until next time,” Sanders said. “I’m confident there will be a next time.”
At 5-11 and 203 pounds, Sanders has the potential to run stronger than the capable but small Dennis Gentry (5-8, 181) and Anthony Hutchison (5-10, 186). Ironically, all three are Texans.
Sanders said he feels confident because “I’m catching the ball better and I’m blocking better. They told me they’re going to play me a lot. I’ve been waiting for this chance. I’ve got to take advantage of it.”
He also thinks he’ll benefit from the rest of the team being more fired up for this contest. “Even though it’s still a pre-season game, I feel like this game is more important. It’s on national TV and we’re playing a big-time team. Beating a team like Dallas means something, even in the pre-season.
With so much riding on one contest, Sanders said, he knows he’ll need to guard against “the jitters. It can hurt you, you can go blank out there. But I’m aware of it and I’ll be ready. This is a big chance for me.”
It won’t just be his parents and six brothers and sisters who’ll be watching, either.
“I talked to one of my cousins,” he said. “They’re all excited, lots of cousins and friends, so I’m excited about doing well.”
There will be a few other folks watching, too – not only back in Chicago and across the country, but on the sidelines.