Sanders was inducted into the Pro 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 two that are particularly close to his heart - the Family2Family Foundation of Michigan and the Charlie Sanders Scholarship Foundation. The Charlie Sanders Scholarship Foundation began in 2007 after a successful fundraiser with the Rochester (Mich.) Community House. The foundation annually will fund at least two college scholarships for high school students in Oakland County. In time, Sanders hopes to expand the scholarships to all of Michigan as well as North Carolina, his home state.