Neon Deion…Prime Time – no matter what he was going by during a specific season – fans either loved him or hated him, there was no in between when it came to Deion Sanders.
No matter what he brought – on and off the field – whether it was ego or not, Sanders is still considered to be one of the most versatile athletes in the history of sports. This man could run up and down the field with moves that made him look like he was Michael Jackson’s twin brother, which allowed him to play a slew of positions in the NFL. From cornerback to wide receiver to kick returner to and punt returner, Prime Time would make sure that he got that ball down to the end zone, no matter what position he was standing in at the time.
He also played for a slew of teams. The Atlanta Falcons was his first, yet he was also a part of the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens – winning the elusive Super Bowl ring when he was with both San Francisco and Dallas.
Prime Time could also be found on the baseball diamond in all different cities, including playing for the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants.
In college, at Florida State, was where Deion Sanders became a two-time All American cornerback in 1986 and 1987, not to mention making a third team ‘All-American’ in 1988 when he intercepted fourteen passes in his career. As a winner of the Jim Thorpe award, Deion was also a huge star as a punt returner for Florida State, leading the nation with his punt return average, and breaking his school’s record for career punt return yards.
Where baseball was concerned, Sanders played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing left and center field in over 600 games with four teams. But the most amazing part, is that during the 1989 season, he hit a major league home run AND scored a touchdown in the NFL in the same week – the only player to ever do so. He will also most likely go down in history as being the ONLY man to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series all in the same year.
Baseball also received something else from Deion Sanders, as he brought to the Atlanta Braves the “tomahawk chop,” which is an action done by fans that is still in use today, an action that is supposed to rally their team to a win. Now, Deion Sanders also brought tabloid press to the baseball diamond simply because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, choosing to get into overheated arguments with other players that made the front page. Perhaps football is where he would really shine.
In 1989 his professional football career began when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. Certainly starting off in the spotlight, Sanders returned his first career punt return for a touchdown on the Atlanta field and drove himself into the hearts of Atlanta fans. He went on to lead the league in kickoff return yards, yards per return, and return touchdowns.
It was five seasons later when Neon Deion signed on to play just one season with the San Francisco 49ers. This would go down as being the absolute best year of his professional football career. It was in the 49ers world that Neon came in and made six interceptions, returning them for an NFL best 303 yards and three touchdowns. It was actually in October of this amazing year when Deion headed back to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and got into a fight with his former teammate Andre Rison. Fans said they could almost smell the bad blood between Deion and his Atlanta fans. And he only made it worse by intercepting a pass from the Falcon’s quarterback, and returning it ninety-three yards while smiling and staring at the whole Falcons’ sideline. Then, he high-stepped it into the end zone as if to say – without me, you’re nothing!
1994 was the year of San Francisco, who took it all the way and won the Super Bowl trophy by beating the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately for Neon Deion, he yet again went to war with one of the players who will ALWAYS be San Francisco’s favorite treat – Jerry Rice. Even though Neon Deion thought he would come out on top – it was Jerry Rice who was far more beloved in the city that held five Super Bowl wins.
What to do? Head to the ultimate rivals of the 49ers – the Dallas Cowboys. Sanders was always looking for the spotlight and began to court several NFL teams; the media coined this moment in time as being the “Deion Sweepstakes.” Dallas had lost their starting cornerback and Sanders signed an extremely lucrative contract with the Cowboys for seven years at $35 million, with a $12.99 million signing bonus, making him, at the time, the highest-paid defensive player in all of the NFL.
In Deion Sanders book (yes, he tried his hand at writing, too. When the sports world turned the spotlight on someone else, Prime Time hit the bookshelves) and told everyone that there was much more money on the table, but he chose Dallas because he wanted back-to-back Super Bowl wins, and because Michael Irvin was a friend of his.
He did do one thing – he was with the Cowboys as they won their third Super Bowl title in four years – but the back-to-back hope would never occur. That was it for the Super Bowl rings for Neon Deion.
Sanders did get a chance to keep opening his mouth, however, as a guest commentator on Monday Night Football.
Sanders – not being one to sit around for long – did return to football as a Baltimore Raven, where he set some records at the age of thirty-seven, to finally retire. His career lasted for fourteen years, ending as a perennial All-Pro and one of the most dangerous pass defenders to ever take the field.
While critics still argue that there were many things NOT good about Neon Deion’s performances – like the fact that he was a horrible tackler – he will always be remembered for two things: his mouth and his Superman-like speed.