Deion Sanders

Usain Bolt is ungodly fast, but he’s not Prime Time. Albert Pujols can tear the seams off a base­ball, but he’s not Prime Time. Dar­relle Revis can shut­down a receiver, but he’s not Prime Time. To put it sim­ply, Deion Sanders is our mod­ern day Jim Thorpe.

It’s tough to encom­pass what exactly makes Sanders so great, but let me give it a shot. I think to tell his story you actu­ally have to start with his prowess on a base­ball dia­mond.

It is said that hit­ting a base­ball is the hard­est thing to do in sport. Every sea­son hun­dreds of ballplay­ers take their hacks in the Bigs and thou­sands more toil away in the Minors. Most will not be con­sid­ered any­thing more than an after­thought, if that.

Sanders was a part-time ballplayer. His true call­ing was foot­ball, but even only play­ing half a sea­son Sanders was one of the most elec­tri­fy­ing play­ers in base­ball.

There have been numer­ous cross-over wannabes, but none where as suc­cess­ful as Sanders. Prime Time played nine MLB sea­sons and fin­ished with a .263 life­time aver­age, a .319 life­time on-base per­cent­age and stole 186 bases in addi­tion to play­ing a solid cen­ter­field.

Those are hardly gaudy num­bers, but those are the stats of a part-time player who was cov­eted by the New York Yan­kees, Atlanta Braves and Cincin­nati Reds. In his lone World Series appear­ance, he played in four games and was 8–15 with two walks at the plate. He also stole five bases and was never caught steal­ing on the base paths.

Too much of Sanders’ leg­end is in regard to his flashiness…his out-right cock­i­ness. And that is as much by his own design as it is media hype.

Today Sanders will right­fully be enshrined into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in Can­ton, Ohio. But I feel it to be nec­es­sary to remind every­one how great of an all-around ath­lete he truly was.

But it is fair to say that Neon Deion was at his scin­til­lat­ing best on the grid­iron. Many will remem­ber him on those all-time great Dal­las Cow­boys teams, or when he helped Steve Young get that mon­key off his back in San Fran­cisco. But for me, Prime Time was, and will always be, an Atlanta Fal­con.

Sanders was in Atlanta for only five sea­sons; and even though those were ter­ri­ble squads, they were fun as hell to watch. You had crazy-ass Jerry Glanville coach­ing the team—this is the same man who would leave tick­ets for Elvis Pres­ley before games at will-call. Catch­ing the ball was Andre “Bad Moon” Risen and the speedy Michael Haynes—when they did score, it was usu­ally going deep. Hell, even a young Brett Favre was hold­ing a clip­board on that team. They weren’t good, but they were endear­ing.

Even though Sanders only made the play­offs once while in Atlanta, you can’t blame that fact on Prime Time. Sanders is, hands down, the great­est cor­ner­back that has ever roamed a foot­ball field. Detrac­tors always bring up the fact that he couldn’t tackle a five-year-old boy. Fair enough, but that’s not a corner’s true job.

Give me a cor­ner that can line up against the other team’s best receiver and absolutely make that receiver impo­tent, over a good-tackling cor­ner. Tack­ling is why you have safeties and line­back­ers.

There has never been a cor­ner like Sanders. Revis and Nnamdi Aso­mugha are bril­liant shut­down cor­ners, but they aren’t in Sanders’ league. Coaches told their quar­ter­backs to never throw at Sanders, because if Prime Time got his hands on the rock there was a good chance he would take it to the house.

Of the last 25 years, Deion Sanders is the great­est ath­lete I’ve seen. Bo Jack­son was right there, but his career was cut too short in the NFL. Guys like Michael Jor­dan and Wayne Gret­zky were bril­liant, but they were great only in bas­ket­ball and hockey, respec­tively.

Sanders lit­er­ally had days where he would go and return kick­offs and punts—where 250-plus pound men would come charg­ing directly at him—all while run­ning hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of yards while cov­er­ing the other team’s best receiver, and would then get in a heli­copter and go hit a base­ball.

Don’t let the glitz fool you: Sanders was the epit­ome of power and skill.