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Who do you think of when I say No. 20?
Most likely it's Barry Sanders; he certainly deserves the top spot on this list, so you're not wrong. In a way, he has it.
But in actuality, the No. 20 jersey has been a special number to the Detroit Lions since Lem Barney wore it in 1967.
Barney quickly established himself as one of the dominant cornerbacks in the league (in the final game of his rookie season, Barney intercepted three passes in one quarter and ran one back for a touchdown) and sits second behind Dick LeBeau on just about every team record pertaining to that position. He played 11 seasons—his entire career—in Detroit and spent a good portion of that time as a solid return man, as well.
Barney was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1992, making him the fifth cornerback to earn the honor.
Barney retired in 1977, freeing up the number for Billy Sims, the next great No. 20.
Sims was Sanders' predecessor, and it's almost eerie how the two match up.
Sims set every Lions rushing record in the span of about four-and-a-half seasons. He was dominant, powerful, shifty, creative and everything else the term "featured running back" entails.
Tragically, Sims' tenure in Detroit was cut short by a career-ending knee injury in 1984, but what he accomplished in that short time was still enough to set a number of Lions' rushing records, including a number of rookie records.
That is, until 1989 when the latest and greatest No. 20 joined the team.
Barry Sanders shattered every Lions rushing record, set the league on fire and would be definitely be the league's career leading rusher by a wide margin had he not abruptly retired in the summer of 1999.
Sanders will always be remembered for his ability to electrify the crowd every time he touched the football, but he should be equally remembered for his selfless attitude.
Whether it was his willingness to allow a teammate to play garbage time when he needed only 10 yards to lead the NFL in rushing as a rookie, or his modest, deferential Hall of Fame induction speech, Sanders has never been the type to relish the spotlight, no matter how much of it he got.
Even Sanders' controversial decision to retire reflects his "team-first" attitude in a way.
If winning and losing weren't so important to him, he could have continued to rack up stats in pursuit of individual records, money and accolades. If he wanted to go to a different team, he could have half-heartedly played out his contract and signed with another team.
Instead, he committed to the Detroit Lions so heavily that when it became clear the organization wasn't as committed to winning as he was, it crushed his spirit to the point where he had no choice but to retire. That's a move that in many ways echos fans' sentiments about the Lions over a long period of time.
Regardless of who you think of when you see a No. 20 jersey in Honolulu blue, there can be no doubt that the number itself represents, collectively, the most beloved icons in Detroit Lions history.