ThePostGame recently caught up with Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Sanders is on the cover of "Madden 25" and appears in a new Pepsi MAX commercial (see below) in which a narrator explains how fans can unlock legends in the new video game.
ThePostGame: We've heard a lot about the new running back features on Madden 25. What makes this years game so special?
BARRY SANDERS: In a lot of ways the running game is enhanced. Once you get the game you'll understand, but there's definitely more of a dynamic rushing game and a lot more things you can do running the ball.
And also there's a lot of legends that you can unlock with this under-the-cap promotion by Pepsi MAX. And so it was fun shooting the commercial and whoever your favorite legend is, you may have a chance to unlock them.
For not just me but for a lot of guys it's going to be a great experience to be part of this.
TPG: You've done some work on the Heads Up Football program. What's been your role in that campaign?
SANDERS: I'm an ambassador, trying to promote safety in youth football. And just spread the word about the "Heads Up" program, get coaches trained and try to make youth football as safe as possible for kids.
TPG: Former running backs have come out on both sides of the new crown rule in the NFL. What's your take on the rule?
SANDERS: For me, I know the NFL has to do what they can to make the game as safe as possible and eliminate what they believe are unnecessary risks.
I was a little bit caught off guard by that. But I think it's something we have to live with. You have to work on it in practice and understand what is within the limits and what is going to be acceptable.
I think it will be an adjustment, and it'll be interesting to see how it's actually interpreted and carried out on the field when the season starts. I was a little surprised at that particular rule, but they must have evidence to support the fact that something needs to be done in that area.
TPG: That's just one of several new rules that has been implemented in the NFL over the past few years. In regards to safety, how has the game changed since you retired?
SANDERS: It's a physical, aggressive, violent game. They say that 20 years ago it was much more violent and dangerous. It's hard to get a handle on it. I do know that the rule changes do kind of adjust the way the game is played.
The game over time evolves. It's still a great game, and I think they have a tough job to try to oversee the game and make sure that it's still football but also make it safe.
TPG: Current and former players, as well as President Obama, have said they're unsure if they'd let their sons play football. Not only does your son play, he could make a big impact at Stanford this year. What advice do you give him about playing the game the right way?
SANDERS: He's in a great program and he's only got good coaches. That's a big help for me because I'm not a coach. He's in good hands.
Hey, look, I still love the game and appreciate the game for what it is. And he loves the game. And that's what important. He enjoys playing and it allows to go to a great university and as long as he enjoys it and as long as he sees great value in it that’s what’s important.
They play a great brand of football out there in a big conference. For him, I’m just hoping he enjoys his time in college. It doesn’t last long and so just to make the most of it.
TPG: It’s been 25 years since you won the Heisman Trophy. Does that seem like just yesterday or does it seem like 25 years?
SANDERS: It's hard to believe that 25 years have passed since me coming into the league and winning the Heisman. That was a great year for me, that was a year that my life really changed. So many things happen so fast during that time, but being a lifelong fan of football and college football it was just hard for me to leave in the middle of all of that.
To answer your question, it doesn't seem 25 years have already zoomed by that quickly.
TPG: Speaking of the Heisman, what's your take on all the criticism, hype and general interest surrounding Johnny Manziel?
SANDERS: I don't know. I think that's kind of the day in which we live. He's a pretty intriguing guy. He's having a good time. He’s not hard to find. He's enjoying his success.
I don't see him as being too much different than most guys in his position, most young college athletes who’ve had that kind of success.
I think he'll be fine. I think the best thing that can happen for him is for the season to get started and start playing football again and do what he does best.
TPG: These days social media plays a significant role in the lives of lots of athletes. How do you think things would have been different during your playing days had there been Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networking sites?
SANDERS: That's a lot to deal with. You see why some of these coaches impose restrictions on some of these things. Certain players may get distracted more than others. And you want your team to operate like a family. And you don't want too much of what you discuss behind closed doors to get out.
So, yeah, it's definitely a difficult balance. It’s certainly something that current players have to deal with that we did not have to deal with. But I think some of the coaches definitely have to take a stand as much as possible and just make sure that, within reason, their players are focused on primarily what’s going on with their football family every day.
You want to be able to enjoy social media and technology and all those things, but you certainly don’t want it to interrupt and distract from your team's goals and your priorities of what you need to do to be successful on and off the field.
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