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Deion Luwynn Sanders (Template:IPA-en; born August 9, 1967)[1], nicknamed "Prime Time" and "Neon Deion", is a former National Football League cornerback and Major League Baseball outfielder who currently works as an NFL Network analyst. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Sanders is considered one of the most versatile athletes in sporting history because he played two sports at multiple positions. In the NFL, he played primarily at cornerback, but also occasionally as a wide receiver, kick returner, and punt returner. He played for the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens, winning the Super Bowl with both the 49ers and the Cowboys. In baseball, he played for the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants. He attended Florida State University, where he excelled at both football and baseball.

In February 2006, he became a part-owner of the Austin Wranglers, an Arena Football League team based in Austin, Texas.[2]

BiographyEdit

High school yearsEdit

Sanders was born in Fort Myers, Florida. He attended North Fort Myers High School in North Fort Myers, Florida, and was a letterman in football, basketball, and baseball. He was an All-State honoree in all three sports. In 1985, Sanders was named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team which selected the Top 33 players in the 100 year history of high school football in the state of Florida's history.

College careerEdit

Sanders was a star in three sports for Florida State: football, baseball, and track. Beginning his freshman year, he started in the Seminoles' secondary, played outfield for the baseball team that finished fifth in the nation, and helped lead the track and field team to a conference championship.

At Florida State University, under head coach Bobby Bowden, Sanders was a two time consensus All-American cornerback in 1986 and 1987, and a third team All-American in 1988, intercepting 14 passes in his career, including three in bowl games, and managed to return one interception 100 yards for a touchdown. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1988. He was also a standout punt returner for Florida State, leading the nation in 1988 with his punt return average, and breaking the school's record for career punt return yards. Based on those accolades, his jersey at Florida State, #2, was retired in 1995.

While playing baseball under head coach Mike Martin, at Florida State, Sanders hit .331 in 1986; he was known more for base stealing, swiping 27 bags in 1987. Sanders was drafted while in college by the New York Yankees (He also was selected by the Kansas City Royals out of North Fort Myers High School, though he did not sign.)

Sanders once played the first game of a baseball doubleheader, ran a leg of a 4x100 relay, then returned to play another baseball game.

Personal lifeEdit

Sanders has been married twice — to Carolyn Chambers, with whom he has two children (Deion Jr. and Deiondra), and Pilar Biggers with whom he has 3 children (Shilo, Shedeur and Shelomi). Deion appeared with his family on the NBC show Celebrity Family Feud which premiered on June 24, 2008.

Deion Sanders, along with J.M. Black, published his autobiography. Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. World Publishing 1998. The book was inspired after he began counseling with Bishop T.D. Jakes. Sanders notes his agent Eugene E. Parker as another person who also influenced his life.

OtherEdit

Although Deion Sanders was ranked fourth on the NFL Network's Top 10 - Fastest Players in NFL History, Sanders lost to Willie Gault in the 1990 Super Stars Competition's 100 yard dash and half mile run.

Sanders become involved in a dispute with MLB catcher Carlton Fisk. Fisk, a baseball Hall of Fame catcher, confronted Sanders during a game at Yankee Stadium. Deion started by stepping up to the plate with 1 out and a runner on third, drawing a dollar sign in the dirt before the pitch and then failing to run to first base after hitting a routine pop fly to shortstop. Instead of running to first, as all Little Leaguers are taught, Deion trotted back to the dugout. The Yankee fans booed, and while Fisk was on the opposing team said, "Run the bleeping ball out you piece of bleep." Sanders was "playing the game the wrong way" and tarnished the game of baseball. Deion replied, "The days of slavery are over," trying to make it a racial issue. Fisk later stated, "He comes up and wants to make it a racial issue, there's no racial issue involved. There is a right way and a wrong way to play this game." The infamous incident was later recounted by Fisk on both ESPN Classic and a CNBC interview with Tim Russert on his show.

MLB careerEdit

Sanders played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing 641 games with 4 teams. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 6th round of the 1985 draft, but did not sign with them. He was drafted again in the 30th round of the 1988 draft by the New York Yankees and signed with the team on June 22. Sanders later signed with the Atlanta Braves, and during his most productive year in the majors, the 1992 season, he hit .304 for the team, stole 26 bases, and led the NL with 14 triples in 97 games. 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. Sanders is also the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.

On July 31 of the 1991 MLB season, Sanders hit a key three-run homer to spark a comeback win against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the Braves' improbable run to the National League West Division title. However, he had to leave the Braves the very next day to report to the Atlanta Falcons because of a clause in his NFL contract and missed the postseason. Before the 1992 season, Sanders reworked his NFL deal whereby he still reported to the Falcons for training camp in August, but was allowed to rejoin the Braves for the postseason.

In four games of the 1992 World Series, Sanders batted .533 with 4 runs, 8 hits, 2 doubles, and 1 RBI while playing with a broken bone in his foot. Despite Sanders's performance, the Braves ultimately lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games. In Game 3, he narrowly avoided being a victim of what would have been only the second triple play in World Series history (following Bill Wambsganss' unassisted triple play in 1920). With Sanders on second base and Terry Pendleton on first, David Justice hit a deep fly ball to center field that Blue Jays center fielder Devon White unexpectedly caught with a leaping effort. Pendleton passed Sanders on the bases for the second out, but umpire Bob Davidson called Sanders safe after he scampered back to second base. Replays showed that Toronto third baseman Kelly Gruber tagged him on the heel before he returned to second.[3]

In 1997, Sanders finished 2nd in the NL with 56 stolen bases in 115 games while with the Cincinnati Reds before leaving baseball for three years.

Sanders returned to the Reds in 2001, but was released after playing in only 29 games and batting just .173. Following his release from the Reds he signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays triple-A affiliate, Syracuse Chiefs. Sanders was hitting .337 for Syracuse before the Washington Redskins found a loophole in his contract that said he could miss training camp and the first few games of the season if he were playing Major League Baseball. Since he was not currently on an MLB roster, Sanders had to leave Syracuse and return to the Redskins so he would not violate his NFL contract. But before arriving at training camp, Sanders informed Redskins personnel he was retiring from professional baseball. In his final professional baseball game, Sanders hit a solo home run and had an RBI single in Syracuse's 12-6 win over the Toledo Mud Hens. [4]

NFL careerEdit

Atlanta FalconsEdit

Sanders' professional football career started the same year as his baseball career, 1989. He was the fifth pick overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, [5] where he played until 1993. Sanders returned his first career punt return for a touchdown. During his time in Atlanta, he intercepted 24 passes (including a career high 7 in 1993), three of which he returned for touchdowns. In 1992, he also led the league in kickoff return yards (1,067), yards per return (26.7) and return touchdowns (2). On October 11, 1992, Sanders played in a Falcons game at Miami and then flew to Pittsburgh, hoping to play in the Braves' League Championship Series game against the Pirates that evening and become the first athlete to play in two professional leagues in the same day.[6] Sanders ultimately did not, however, appear in the baseball game that night.[6][7] Over his five years with the Falcons, Sanders found his way to the end zone ten times (three defensive, three kick returns, two punt returns, and two receptions).

San Francisco 49ersEdit

After five seasons Sanders signed on to play one season with the San Francisco 49ers, where he had arguably his best season as a professional football player, recording six interceptions and returning them for an NFL best 303 yards and three touchdowns. On October 16, 1994, Deion was the big story as he made his dramatic return to the Georgia Dome in a 49er uniform. After getting into a scuffle with his former Falcon teammate Andre Rison, Sanders intercepted a pass from quarterback Jeff George and proceeded to return it 93 yards while mockingly staring down the entire Falcons sideline before high-stepping into the end zone. Sanders was later voted the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and recorded an interception in the 49ers 49–26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. After the season, Jerry Rice and Sanders publicly feuded — Rice fumed at the idea that the media felt Sanders was the missing link to the 49ers Super Bowl run and that it was not giving credit to the other 52 men in the locker roomTemplate:Citation needed.

Dallas CowboysEdit

Following his successful season with the 49ers, Sanders, along with his agent Eugene Parker, proceeded to court numerous teams in need of an All-Pro cornerback. The several teams in the "Deion Sweepstakes," as it was coined by the media, were the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and the Dallas Cowboys, who had lost their starting cornerback Kevin Smith to injury for the rest of the season.

On September 9, 1995 (which happened to fall in Week 2 of that NFL season), Sanders signed a lucrative contract with the Dallas Cowboys (seven years, $35 million with a $12.99 million signing bonus), essentially making him, at the time, the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. Sanders later stated in his book Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life that the Oakland Raiders offered him more money than any other team, but he chose to play in Dallas for more time on the offensive side of the ball, a chance to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and because of his friendship with Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin. Arthroscopic surgery kept him sidelined until his debut in Week 9, which was once again in Atlanta against the Falcons, though this time Sanders' debut with his new team was not as dramatic as it was with the 49ers (the Cowboys won, 28 to 13). He went on to help the Cowboys win their third Super Bowl title in four years in Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he returned a punt for 11 yards and caught a 47-yard reception on offense, setting up Dallas' first touchdown of the game and a 27–17 victory. Sanders proceeded to play four more seasons with Dallas, earning Pro Bowl berths in all of them, though the Cowboys would only win one playoff game (in 1996 against the Minnesota Vikings) during that time.

Washington RedskinsEdit

After five seasons with the Cowboys, new Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder pursued Sanders along with other high priced free agents Mark Carrier and Bruce Smith. Sanders played one season with the Redskins, having four interceptions before retiring in 2001. Late in the 2002 NFL season Sanders contemplated a return to the NFL, specifically to the Oakland Raiders. With his rights still the property of the Redskins, he lobbied and received his release from the team and was waived. The San Diego Chargers claimed Sanders' rights and placed him on their Reserve-Retired List. Sanders opted to stay retired.

During the 2002 season, Sanders was a frequent guest commentator on Monday Night Football. On an amusing note, during a Monday Night Football game between Dallas and Washington that year, it was mentioned that Sanders, who was part of the broadcast team for the game, was still collecting salaries from both teams as part of the contracts he had held with each.

Baltimore RavensEdit

In 2004, Sanders announced that he was going to end his retirement, after being lured back to football by Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller, linebacker Ray Lewis and best friend Joe Zorovich. He signed a 1-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens to be a nickelback. Sanders chose to wear the number 37, which matched his age at the time, to preemptively let people know that he was well aware of his relative senior status as an NFL player (additionally, the number 21, used by Sanders throughout his career, was already being worn by Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister). Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7 of 2004, Sanders scored his ninth career interception return touchdown, moving him into a tie for second place with Ken Houston and Aeneas Williams, and behind Rod Woodson (with 12) for all-time in the statistical category.

In January of 2006, after playing two seasons for Baltimore in which the Ravens did not qualify for the postseason, Sanders once again retired from the NFL and became an analyst for the NFL Network.

LegacyEdit

During his 14-year NFL career, Sanders was a perennial All-Pro and one of the most feared pass defenders to ever play the game. While critics argued that his tackling was poor and he was not much of a factor in run support, they could not deny his closing speed.

Sanders also occasionally lined up with his team's offense. During the 1996 season, Sanders skipped the baseball season by concentrating strictly on football and attended the first NFL training camp of his career to better familiarize himself with the nuances of the wide receiver position. He became the second two-way starter (after the Cardinals' Roy Green) in the NFL since Chuck Bednarik for the first half of the season due to Michael Irvin serving a five game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

During his career, Sanders intercepted 53 passes for 1,331 yards (a 25.1 yards per return average), recovered four fumbles for 15 yards, returned 155 kickoffs for 3,523 yards, gained 2,199 yards on 212 punt returns, and caught 60 passes for 784 yards. Sanders amassed 7,838 all-purpose yards and scored 22 touchdowns: nine interception returns, six punt returns, three kickoff returns, three receiving, and one fumble recovery. His 19 defensive and return touchdowns are an NFL record. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls in 1991--1994, 19961999. He was also awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1994.

  • College Football News named Sanders #8 in its list of 100 Greatest College Football Players of All-Time.
  • The Sporting News named Sanders #37 in their Top 100 Football Players of the Century released in 1999.
  • ESPN named Sanders #74 in its list of the 100 Great Athletes of the Century released in 1999.
  • NFL.com named Sanders #34 on NFL's Top 100 list released in late 2010
  • On November 11, 2010 Deion Sanders was inducted into the Atlanta Falcons' Ring of Honor.
  • On February 5, 2011 Deion Sanders was announced as an NFL Hall of Fame inductee

Sanders also had a rushing TD in the playoffs (against the Philadelphia Eagles in January 1996). This makes him (including post season) one of only two players in NFL history (Bill Dudley being the other) to score a touchdown six different ways (interception return, punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing, and a fumble recovery).

On February 5, 2011, Sanders was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

On February 6th 2011, at the Super Bowl XLV, Sanders performed the pre-game coin toss.

Media appearances and pop culture fameEdit

Following his first Super Bowl victory with the San Francisco 49ers, Sanders was the host of Saturday Night Live, broadcast on February 18, 1995.

Sanders has been in numerous television commercials for Nike, Pepsi, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and American Express. He was most notable as the Road Runner in a Pepsi ad with Wile E. Coyote, and in a Pizza Hut commercial where he responds to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones questions ("Football or baseball?" and "Offense or defense?") with "both!!", including the question "So what'll it be, Deion? $15...20 million?" Sanders pauses to think it over, and says, "Umm...both.".[8] He also makes a cameo as himself in the film Celtic Pride.

Sanders, known for his custom-made showy suits and flashy jewelry, frequently capitalized on his image. On December 26, 1994 Sanders released Prime Time, a rap album on Bust It Records (MC Hammer's label) that featured the minor hit "Must Be The Money." "Prime Time Keeps on Tickin'" was also released as a single. Sanders, a friend of Hammer's, appeared in his "Too Legit to Quit" music video. His alter-ego "Prime Time" is also used in Hammer's "Pumps and a Bump" video. Hammer, a big sports fan, had launched a new enterprise during his career called Roll Wit It Entertainment & Sports Management (which released DRS' two-million-selling "Gangsta Lean") and had clients such as Evander Holyfield, Deion Sanders and Reggie Brooks.[1] In 1995, Hammer released "Straight to My Feet" (with Deion Sanders) from the Street Fighter soundtrack (released in December 1994). The song charted #57 in the UK.

After retiring from the NFL, Sanders worked as a sports pre-game commentator for CBS' The NFL Today until 2004, when contract negotiations failed. Sanders turned down a 30% salary increase demanding to be paid $2.5 million, the highest of any NFL TV analyst. He was replaced by Shannon Sharpe. During Sanders's run, he participated in several sketches. The first was "Primetime and 21st," a mock street corner where Sanders (not yet a regular panelist) would give his opinions. Another was his "Sanders Claus" persona, one of numerous sketches that involved young kids in football jerseys, representing NFL players, receiving a sarcastic gift from Sanders. Deion actually debuted as "Sanders Claus" in a set of Nike commercials. Still to this day Deion takes presents at Christmas time to local children's hospitals in his area dressed as "Sanders Claus".

Sanders frequently made guest appearances on ESPN, especially on the ESPN Radio Dallas affiliate, and briefly hosted a show called The New American Sportsman. He also hosted the 2002 Miss USA pageant.

Sanders also was co-host of the 2004 GMA Music Awards broadcast, taped in late April 2004, slated for an airing on UPN in May 2004. When negotiations with fellow Viacom property CBS failed (see above) two weeks before the broadcast, and he signed a deal with ESPN, UPN promptly canceled the broadcast, and the show aired on the i Network in December 2004 (both UPN and CBS are now owned by CBS Corporation).

Sanders currently works at NFL Network as an analyst on a number of the network's shows. Prior to the Sunday night game, Sanders, alongside host Rich Eisen and Steve Mariucci, breaks down all the action from the afternoon matchups on NFL GameDay Highlights. At the conclusion of all the action on Sunday, Sanders, Mariucci, Michael Irvin and host Fran Charles recapt the day’s action on NFL GameDay Final with highlights, analysis and postgame interviews. For the 2010 season, Sanders joined Eisen, Mariucci and Marshall Faulk on the road for Thursday Night Kickoff Presented by Lexus, NFL Network’s two-hour pregame show leading into Thursday Night Football. The group broadcasts live from the stadium two hours prior to all eight live Thursday Night Football games and returns for the Sprint Halftime Show and Kay Jewelers Postgame Show. Sanders also has a segment called "Let's Go Primetime" on NFL Network.

Sanders currently stars in his own reality show -- Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love -- centered around him, his wife, and their five children, all of whom live in the small town of Prosper, Texas.

"Prime Time" personaEdit

Deion Sanders will often be remembered for sporting his famous "do-rag or bandana" and for his "High-Stepping" into the end zone followed by his touchdown dance celebrations. At the same time, Sanders will also be remembered for being one of the most visible and outspoken football players to ever take the field due to his alter-ego, Prime Time. A marketing ploy as much as an alternate personality as it was given to him by a friend and high school teammate, Florida Gators defensive back Richard Fain. The two played pickup basketball games together during the prime time television hour, and Sanders' athletic display during those games won him that title. Once in the NFL, Sanders felt he deserved to be paid as much as NFL quarterbacks and in 1995 he used the "Prime Time" strategy to sign a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys (the contract was essentially five years, but was given a seven-year length for an easier cap hit and the signing bonus was $12,999,999.99, one cent under $13 million due to a superstition of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones). At one point, he was the highest paid defensive player in the league and set the benchmark price-tag for future "shut-down corners". Prime Time was upset that he was placed #34 on the list of Top 100 NFL players and said that he should at least be in the top 10.

Other venturesEdit

In addition to his sports career, Sanders has moved on to other ventures after his retirement. In 2003, Sanders took interest in Devin Hester a return specialist from the University of Miami Hurricanes. Sanders mentored Hester, counseling and advising him during various points of his collegiate career. The Chicago Bears drafted Hester in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Since then, Hester has broken, tied, or approached many NFL return records. Hester has cited Sanders as one of his major inspirations and idols, and thanked him for his training and advice. Hester, also known as “Anytime,” occasionally performs Sanders’ signature touchdown dance and high-steps in homage to his mentor.[9][10][11]

Sanders also tried to adopt a high school running back, Noel Devine, who was one of the top recruits in 2007. Sanders was advised against this, but responded, "He doesn't have parents; they died. God put this young man in my heart. This is not about sports. This is about a kid's life." He now mentors Devine, and was a factor in Devine's extended wait to sign a letter-of-intent to West Virginia University. Devine eventually signed to play football for the Mountaineers. Sanders has also been the mentor to San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, as well as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Dez Bryant.

In January 2004, Sanders was hired as an assistant coach to the Dallas Fury, a women's professional basketball team in the National Women's Basketball League, even though Sanders had never played organized basketball either in college or the professional level.[12]

On September 2, 2005, in response to the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina, Sanders challenged all professional athletes in the four major sports to donate $1,000 each to relief efforts, hoping to raise between $1.5 and $3 million total. Sanders said "Through unity, we can touch thousands....I have friends and relatives that feel this pain. Help in any way you can."Template:Citation needed In April 2006, Sanders became an owner of the Austin Wranglers, an Arena Football League team.[13]

Sanders has occasionally served as a celebrity spokesperson, such as representing Monitronics, a security system firm, at an industry conference in the spring of 2010.[14]

DiscographyEdit

Year Album Chart Positions
US Hip-Hop US Heatseekers
1994 Prime Time 70 14
2005 The Encore Remix - -
"—" denotes the album failed to chart or not released

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