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For an undrafted rookie like Jaret Patterson fighting to make an impression in the NFL, there's nothing wrong with having a Hall of Fame running back like Barry Sanders as one of your biggest fans.
Patterson achieved a childhood dream by earning a roster spot on the Washington Football Team -- his hometown team. He was a spark plug against the Patriots and Bengals, galavanting his way to 217 all-purpose yards in the preseason. After seeing Patterson flaunt his quickness and versatility, count Sanders as someone who wants to see more.
"Excited to see what you can do," Sanders said on Twitter, "just not against the Lions. Good luck [Jaret Patterson]."
It's not the first time Sanders -- a 10-time Pro Bowler who rushed for 15,269 yards and 99 touchdowns -- has shown love for the former Buffalo star. That support goes all the way back to Patterson's college days, when he was setting single-season records in rushing yards (1,799 yards) and touchdowns (19).
And not that people need to be told again, but Patterson tied an FBS record with eight rushing touchdowns against Kent State. That performance prompted Sanders to give people a warning: "Don't sleep" on the 5-foot-8, 195-pound back.
That kind of motivation has been a reminder to Patterson that he belongs in the NFL.
"That's always been my guy," Patterson said. "It just means a lot, one of the GOATs in my position recognizing me since college to now, it just gives you more confidence that you belong and this is where I'm supposed to be."
Seeing what Patterson did in the preseason convinced Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew that he's supposed to be playing at the highest level, too. He had 70 total yards against the Patriots and then nearly doubled that with 133 all-purpose yards, including a 37-yard kick return, at FedExField against the Bengals.
When asked about Patterson making Washington's roster as its third running back, Mayhew said the team's only undrafted free agent "can be pretty special."
"He's an explosive guy. He brings a lot to the table. He's going to be fun to watch this year. Hopefully he continues to grow and develop as a player."
Patterson has a similar style to that of Sanders. Mayhew said his size makes him hard to tackle, and that's paired with some exceptional vision and acceleration that allows him to slip through running lanes. Mayhew compared Patterson to Jamie Morris and Ricky Ervins, two of his former teammates, but those skills are also part of what made Sanders such a headache with the Lions.
It would be unfair to compare Patterson to Sanders at this point. After all, he has a long way to go and a whole career ahead of him. Still, Sanders is in Patterson's corner, and that gives him confidence. Maybe he can pass on some pointers to the rookie once they finally meet in person.
"If he thinks I can be special," Patterson said, "then I can be special."