About Charlie Sanders

Charlie & Wayne

Charlie with his son Wayne

Charlie Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 when he became only the seventh tight end enshrined in NFL history. He played his entire 10-year (1968-77) NFL career with the Lions, and recorded 336 career receptions for 4,817 yards and 31 touchdowns. He is considered the “finest Tight End in Detroit Lions history”, and he proved to be a “secret weapon” in the passing game during a period where the tight end was primarily a blocker. His 336 career receptions set a franchise record that would hold for 20 seasons until it was surpassed by Herman Moore in 1996. He led the Lions or was a co-leader in receptions six times, and he garnered 30 or more receptions seven times in addition to reaching 500 yards in six seasons. Sanders was selected to seven Pro Bowls, was a two-time All-Pro (1970-71) and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s.

Drafted by the Lions in the third round from the University of Minnesota in 1968, Sanders was the only rookie that season selected to play in the Pro Bowl and he finished second to then-teammate Earl McCullough for NFL Rookie of the Year honors. In his first season, he hauled in 40 passes for 533 yards and scored one touchdown, and perhaps the single-greatest game of his career occurred in the season finale when he grabbed 10 receptions for 133 yards against Washington. He would prove during his career his extraordinary ability by combining great leaping ability, big hands, strength, speed and elusiveness—traits not common for tight ends of his era. Sanders was one of the first tight ends who brought experience in both college football and basketball, much like TE Tony Gonzalez and TE Antonio Gates in today’s game.

As great of a player that Sanders was on the field, he has had an even greater presence off the field helping countless charitable organizations. Sanders, who is the Lions’ Assistant Director of Pro Personnel and has been affiliated with the Lions in various capacities for 40 years, has always been committed to assisting community efforts. While a player, Sanders annually supported March of Dimes and was a United Way spokesman for the team. Today, he continues to assist many charities but has focused his efforts on causes that are particularly close to his heart – the Family2Family Foundation of Michigan, Charlie Sanders Scholarship Foundation and the Charlie Sanders Foundation’s “Have A Heart Save A Life” program.

Although his Foundation continues to assist with scholarships, Charlie’s focus now is on “Have A Heart Save A Life”. In 2012, the first “Charlie Sanders Have A Heart Save A Life Celebrity Golf Outing was held in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Proceeds from the event, and all related fundraising of the Charlie Sanders Foundation, are used to help fund Student Healthy Heart Check events, currently provided by Beaumont Hospital and the Henry Ford Health System.

Have A Heart Save A Life started after Charlie heard about the sudden death of high school basketball player Wes Leonard of Fennville, Michigan. Wes collapsed and died on the court after making the winning shot in the championship game. It was discovered that Wes had an undiagnosed case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a condition which when unknown, can cause sudden cardiac death. After some research, Charlie found that this was happening more often, all over the country. He decided then to dedicate his Foundation to helping get all students and student athletes screened for any undetected heart problems before they went out on the fields and courts.

The second Celebrity Golf Outing was held in June of 2013, and as a result, the Charlie Sanders Foundation was able to donate $20,000 to the Beaumont Hospital “Healthy Heart Check Program”. Throughout the year, other fundraising events are held and the Foundation has also been able to donate to the “Wes Leonard Heart Team” — helping to provide AEDs to schools, as well as the donation of AEDs to schools in Charlie’s hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.

The next “Have A Heart Save A Life” Celebrity Golf Outing is being held on Monday, June 2, 2014 at Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield, Michigan. In addition to golf, the all-day event will feature silent and live auctions, meals, swimming, tennis, an awards banquet, and of course . . . celebrities. One of the newest celebrities to join us this year is former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka.



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