Former Gopher star tight end Charlie Sanders has died at the age of 68. Sanders was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions in the 1968 NFL Draft and would go on to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007.
Sanders was a star tight end for the Gophers in 1966 and 1967. He earned All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1967 helping to lead the Gophers to an 8-2 record and a share of the Big Ten title. He caught 21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns his senior season. Sanders was inducted into the Minnesota M Club Hall of Fame in 2013.
In the NFL, Sanders became on of the greatest players in Detroit Lions history. He became the only rookie selected to the 1969 Pro Bowl. That season, he recorded 40 catches for 533 yards and his numbers would remain consistent throughout his career. He averaged 37.63 yards per game, ranking third among tight ends of his era, and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s. He was voted to the Pro Bowl seven times in his career.
Doctors diagnosed Sanders with cancer last November after they found a malignant tumor behind his right knee while he was being prepped for knee replacement surgery. An article in the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday states that Sanders was fighting and was still upbeat about his treatment, but now may appear to be one last gasp for the former star, as he passed away less than 48 hours after the article was posted. This quote by Sanders friend and former Detroit mayor Dave Bing may have foreshadowed today's developments, "One thing that I really do want people to know is that he feels all the prayers and all the love and he knows that there are so many people really giving back to him what he gave," Sailor said. "So in this critical time we are just rallying with him and it's so difficult to get to everyone, but he would like everyone to know that he really feels and appreciates their prayer."
RIP to a Gopher Football Legend.