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Former Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders announces retirement

Sanders says in video he is retiring as a Bronco
emmanuel sanders
Posted at 9:40 AM, Sep 07, 2022

DENVER — Emmanuel Sanders demanded attention. He competed with flair and exuberance, but was defined by toughness. He absorbed monster hits, including one at St. Louis, where it appeared he would never get up. That was in 2014. He played seven more seasons.

After a strong career with five teams, the former Broncos receiver announced Wednesday he was retiring from the NFL as a Bronco after 12 seasons, two Pro Bowls, and a Super Bowl 50 victory.

“For me, I feel like it’s the right time for me. Twelve years, I’m walking away from the game healthy. I’ve had a great career. I’ve played in a lot of great games. I feel like it’s my time,” Sanders said in a video released by the Broncos. “Now I can run routes with my son, play basketball with my son, hang out with my kids, and enjoy my life.”

A Bellville, Texas, native, Sanders spent 5 ½ seasons with the Broncos after starting his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He arrived in Denver with controversy. The Chiefs thought they had a deal with Sanders, but he insisted there was no agreement and he followed Peyton Manning to Denver, calling playing with the future Hall of Famer "wide receiver heaven."

He enjoyed the best season of his career in 2014. He earned Pro Bowl honors, finishing with 101 receptions, 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns.

He would follow up with another 1,000-plus yard season in 2015, when the Broncos would go on to win the Super Bowl. Sanders had 16 catches for 230 yards during the Super Bowl run. He posted another 1,000+ season in 2016, making the Pro Bowl again before downslides in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, marked by the Broncos' endless carousel of underwhelming starting quarterbacks.

Sanders called his time with the Broncos, particularly the Peyton Manning era, the best of his career.

“I’ll never forget making those big-time catches, coming up with the play and seeing the Broncos fans going crazy. And me going and fist-pumping it in because they’re giving me so much energy, and I’m giving them the energy back. Or me scoring and bowing and saluting to the crowd,” Sanders said. “In that Broncos stadium, it was the best energy that I’ve ever had really, truthfully.”

The Broncos traded Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers in October 2019 as they turned over the roster. Sanders had grown frustrated with the offense and his role, while dealing with an injury. He was the last remaining starter from the Super Bowl champion team and had moved to the No. 2 role after the emergence of Courtland Sutton.

Sanders recalled one of his favorite memories during the Super Bowl run was playing in the confetti with his receiving partner, the late Demaryius Thomas.

“I’m like, ‘Yo, we gotta go play in the confetti.’ You know, I’m the rah rah guy. DT was like like, ‘Chill.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, we gotta go play in the confetti.’ DT was like, ‘Man, come on,’” he said. “That’s just such a fond memory.”

Sanders called winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos and with Manning was beautiful for him.

“I remember looking at Peyton telling him, ‘Man, just embrace it. This is beautiful. This is beautiful, you going out on top,’” he recalled. “And then once the clock struck zero. To be able to go and grab my family and celebrate, it was one of the best years of my life. It’s something I look back on and I still can’t believe it to this day.”

“I see this ring, and at one point in my career, all the hard work, all the passion, everything that I gave to this game, all the blood sweat and tears,” he continued. “At one point, I sat on top of the mountain of this game.”

Sanders joined the New Orleans Saints for the 2020 season after 10 games in San Francisco, where he could have won another ring in Super Bowl 54 had 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo not overthrown him on a deep ball in the waning moments. Sanders started five games there, finishing the regular season with 61 catches, 726 yards and five touchdowns and eight catches in two playoff games.

He joined the Buffalo Bills for the 2021 season, starting 13 of the 14 games in which he played and finishing with 42 catches for 626 yards and four touchdowns. He caught three passes and scored a touchdown in the playoffs.

The Broncos plan to host a retirement news conference for Sanders on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Sanders, who attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and was a third round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, explained in the video released by the Broncos that he was leaving nothing on the field.

“I gave it my all. Every single rep, every single play, I tried to go 100% as hard as I can,” Sanders said. “I gave the game everything that I had, and the game gave it back to me. I’m walking away with a Super Bowl ring and memories of a lifetime.”