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Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders, winner of the...

By
JOE CIALINI, UPI Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders, winner of the Maxwell Award as the nation's outstanding collegiate football player, remains wary of the dangers of fame.

'I think I have a long ways to go in playing football,' said Sanders, who added the 52nd Maxwell Award to the Heisman Trophy he received earlier this month. 'Although I have been honored with awards, life doesn't stop here. You have to keep things in perspective.

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'You have to keep trying to better yourself. You either get better or you get worse. You can't lose sight of your goals. I've seen a few athletes win some awards and their outlook changes. I don't want that to happen to me.'

Sanders, a junior, ran for 2,553 yards and scored 39 touchdowns, both NCAA records, as Oklahoma State compiled a 9-2 mark this season and earned a berth in the Holiday Bowl, where the Cowboys will play Wyoming.

'We felt he would be a great one once he got the opportunity,' Oklahoma State Coach Pat Jones said. 'But we never expected him to win the Heisman Trophy or the Maxwell Award.'

In balloting by members of the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia, sports writers and college sports officials, Sanders received 400 first-place votes and 2,392 points.

USC quarterback Rodney Peete was second with 105 first-place votes and 1,288 points and UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman third with 56 first-place votes and 868 points. Rounding out the top five were Miami quarterback Steve Walsh (36-473) and West Virginia quarterback Major Harris (32-383).

Sanders became the first running back to win the award since Nebraska's Mike Rozier in 1983. Quarterbacks had taken the previous four awards, including Don McPherson of Syracuse, who won the honor in 1987.

Sanders will have a chance to become the first player to earn two straight Maxwell Awards next season, since he said he plans to play his senior year at Oklahoma State.

'I was surprised when I heard the rumors (that I would leave school and apply for the NFL draft),' Sanders said. 'I never had any interest whatsoever. It was just a rumor.

'I just turned 20 and I'm not ready to take on a full-time job yet, either mentally or physically. If I stay healthy, I'll have a chance to play in the NFL. There's no need to rush things at all.'

The 1988 season was the first time Sanders had the chance to be the focus of the Oklahoma State attack. He spent his first two years playing behind Thurman Thomas.

And he was happy with his second-string role.

'I didn't feel I was ready,' he said. 'I didn't want to be in Thurman's shoes. There were too many worries. It was good to sit back, get experience and observe what was going on.'

Now he will have to try to follow up his own record-setting performance.

'That's not a concern,' he said. 'We have players coming back who are able to compete. We will have juniors and seniors on the offensive line who will be eager to play. It will be something to look forward to next year. It will just be another challenge.'

The Maxwell Club also presented its Jim Henry Award for the outstanding high school player in the Philadelphia area to Frank Caccuro of St. John Newmann.

Caccuro played both offensive tackle and defensive end and served as captain of the 1988 Neumann team.

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