As Michigan State managed to claw its way into a 15th Sweet 16 appearance under Tom Izzo, fans may have noticed a familiar face cheering on the Spartans.
That would be legendary Lions running back Barry Sanders.
Sanders was in the crowd during Michigan State's upset of No. 2 Marquette. He was wearing a Spartans hat and cheering on the team as it managed to keep Marquette at an arm's length in the second half.
But why is Sanders rooting for the Spartans? Sanders' Michigan State ties run deeper than his connection to the state of Michigan. He actually has a son on the team, Nick Sanders.
Here's what to know about Barry Sanders' basketball-playing son Nick as Michigan State vies for some more NCAA Tournament wins.
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Who is Nick Sanders?
Nick Sanders is a freshman guard at Michigan State. He joined the team as a walk-on in August of 2022 and stands at 5-9, 170 pounds.
Sanders played his high school ball at Detroit Country Day. According to the Spartans' official website, he averaged 10 points, three rebounds and four assists per game as a senior.
Sanders isn't the only player on Michigan State's roster with a famous father. Davis Smith, son of former Panthers and Ravens receiver Steve Smith, is also on the roster. So too is Stephen Izzo, the son of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
MORE: Meet Tom Izzo's son, Michigan State walk-on Stephen Izzo
Nick Sanders stats
Sanders has hardly played in his first season at Michigan State. He has played just seven minutes across seven appearances in total. He has attempted two shots — one 2-point attempt and one 3-pointer — but neither went in.
As such, Sanders has yet to record a point, rebound, assist, steal, block or turnover yet in his career. He will now await an opportunity in the NCAA Tournament.
Still, Sanders' father is proud of what his son has accomplished and expressed that after Nick's first action with the Spartans back in November.
Where did Barry Sanders go to college?
Barry Sanders went to Oklahoma State during his college days, so Nick did not follow in his footsteps with his decision.
Sanders (5-8, 200 pounds) was a star for the Cowboys during his final collegiate season. He performed well during his sophomore season, but he broke out with a whopping 2,628 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns as a junior. His 37 rushing scores are an NCAA single-season record to this day.
Sanders' performance was enough to get him selected No. 3 overall by the Lions in the 1989 NFL Draft. From there, he would go on to become one of the greatest running backs of all time.
Barry Sanders stats
Sanders played 10 seasons in the NFL and was named an AP All-Pro six times. He totaled at least 1,115 rushing yards in each of his 10 NFL seasons and led the NFL in rushing yards four times.
In his penultimate season, Sanders became just the third player to ever eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. Only eight players have achieved that feat to date.
Below is a look at Sanders' stats from his Hall of Fame career:
| Year || Carries || Yards || Rush TDs || Catches || Yards || Receiving TDs |
| 1989 || 280 || 1,470 || 14 || 24 || 282 || 0 |
| 1990 || 255 || 1,304 || 13 || 36 || 480 || 3 |
| 1991 || 342 || 1,548 || 16 || 41 || 307 || 1 |
| 1992 || 312 || 1,352 || 9 || 29 || 225 || 1 |
| 1993 || 243 || 1,115 || 3 || 36 || 205 || 0 |
| 1994 || 331 || 1,883 || 7 || 44 || 283 || 1 |
| 1995 || 314 || 1,500 || 11 || 48 || 398 || 1 |
| 1996 || 307 || 1,553 || 11 || 24 || 147 || 0 |
| 1997 || 335 || 2,053 || 11 || 33 || 305 || 3 |
| 1998 || 343 || 1,491 || 4 || 37 || 289 || 0 |
| Total || 3,062 || 15,269 || 99 || 352 || 2,921 || 10 |
BENDER: What's behind the Big Ten national championship drought? Tom Izzo knows the answer
Barry Sanders' children
Barry Sanders has four children, all sons. They are Barry Sanders Jr., Nick Sanders, Nigel Sanders and Noah Sanders. As mentioned, Nick plays college basketball at Michigan State; two of Sanders' other sons have also played college sports.
Barry Jr. — Sanders' oldest son — followed in his father's footsteps playing football. He was a running back at Stanford for four seasons before transferring to his father's alma mater, Oklahoma State, for the final year of his career. Sanders Jr. racked up 765 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns during his four-year college career.
Noah, the youngest of the Sanders children, is currently playing college football. He was a freshman at Delaware in 2022 and served as a depth quarterback option for the team. He did not see any action during his first season.
Nigel is the lone Sanders son not to play college sports. He was more interested in music, so he focused on music production instead of athletics.
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