Hey, Falcoholics, I’m back with another edition of The Falcoholic’s Throwback Thursday series. This weekly segment highlights a former Atlanta Falcons player and discusses their life and what they did for the franchise.
Whether you’ve been a fan since the inaugural season, or just became a fan recently, this series will give insight on players from the past. This week we will be focusing on cornerback Deion Sanders.
Deion Luwynn Sanders was born on Aug. 9, 1967 in Fort Meyers, Fla. Deion attended North Fort Meyers High School where he was an All-State honoree and letterman in baseball, basketball and football. In 1985, Deion was selected for the Florida High School Association All-Century Team, which listed the top 33 players in the 100-year history of high school football in the state of Florida. In the sixth round of the 1985 MLB Draft, the Kansas City Royals selected Deion, although he didn’t sign with them.
Deion Sanders attended Florida State University where he played football, ran track, and played baseball. During his freshman year, Deion helped lead the track and field team to a conference championship. From 1987 to 1988, Deion was a two-time consensus All-American cornerback, after being named a third-team All-American in 1986. In 1988, Deion won the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the top defensive back in NCAA football each year. He finished his collegiate career with an impressive 126 punt returns for 1,429 yards. His No. 2 jersey was retired by FSU in 1995.
With the fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected Deion Sanders. Prior to becoming a Falcon, Deion was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB Draft. Although Deion intended to attend training camp with the Falcons, a contract dispute led to him pursuing baseball and ultimately receiving a promotion to the major leagues, where he spent the summer with a Class AAA International League team.
In regards to football, Deion Sanders quickly put the Atlanta Falcons on the map. Deion arrived in Atlanta ready to boost the city which had often been disrespected by those outside of it. The best part is he actually wanted to be in Atlanta. Deion told ESPN about the possibility of playing for the Detroit Lions:
“I would’ve asked for so much money they would’ve had to put me on layaway.”
In 1991, Deion Sanders had five interceptions and helped the Falcons finish 10-6. The team went on to the second ever playoff victory in franchise history against the New Orleans Saints. In five seasons with the Falcons, Deion made the All-Pro team for three of them. From 1991 through 1993, he also made the Pro Bowl with the Falcons.
Deion also played baseball for Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves from 1991 through 1994, contributing to three postseason appearances and batting .533 during the 1992 World Series. In 1994, he released a R&B/hip-hop album. While in Atlanta, Deion was basically king. Former Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville is quoted as saying:
“Deion was a part of the spirit of Atlanta. People don’t know this, but they’d have to close the airport when we’d come home after away games because there were so many people wanting to greet us, wanting to greet Deion. Not after we won a playoff game; it was every time. He loved every minute of it.”
As a Falcon, Deion totaled 24 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, and five special teams touchdowns.
After five seasons with the Falcons, Deion Sanders signed with the San Francisco 49ers. On Oct. 16, Deion made his return to the Georgia Dome. Prime Time got into a scuffle with former teammate wide receiver Andre Rison, and intercepted a pass from Falcons’ quarterback Jeff George, returning it 93 yards for a touchdown. The 1994 season would go down as arguably his best NFL season, as he was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and earned his first championship ring as the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. He also once again made the Pro Bowl.
Following one season with the 49ers, Deion Sanders joined the Dallas Cowboys, signing a seven-year contract worth $35 million and a $12.999 million signing bonus. Due to arthroscopic surgery, Deion wouldn’t officially play for the Cowboys until Week 9, which ironically was the week the Atlanta Falcons were on the schedule. Deion would also get his second Super Bowl ring, as the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. On June 2, 2000, the Cowboys released Deion in an apparent salary cap move.
Before the 2000 season, Washington signed Deion Sanders to a seven-year, $56 million contract. In 16 games for Washington, Deion recorded four interceptions and 41 tackles. After the season, Deion retired from the NFL.
This wasn’t the end for Deion Sanders, because after three seasons away from football, Prime Time returned to the NFL. In 2004, Deion signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, which allowed him to play with his friend, linebacker Ray Lewis. After playing for the Ravens from 2004 to 2005, Deion again retired from football to pursue an opportunity as an analyst for the NFL Network.
Prime Time’s legacy in Atlanta was huge for the city, but his impact on the game of football was arguably even larger. His accolades include:
· Two-time unanimous All-American (1987, 1988)
· Jim Thorpe Award (1988)
· Eight-time first-team All-Pro (1991–1994, 1996–1999)
· NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1994)
· Two-time Super Bowl champion (XXIX, XXX)
· Eight-time Pro Bowl (1991–1994, 1996–1999)
· Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor
· Pro Football Hall of Fame (2011)
Like many of you, I personally wish Deion Sanders would’ve brought the city of Atlanta its first ever Super Bowl victory. Seeing him succeed elsewhere was painful for many, but it doesn’t diminish his love for the city of Atlanta.
There’s a lot more to discuss about Deion Sanders, from his co-founding of the Prime Prep Academy in Texas to his appearances in MC Hammer music videos. Let me know in the comments below some of your favorite “Prime Time” Deion Sanders memories. As always, you can find me on Twitter @EvanBirchfield. Additionally, make sure to follow @The_Falcoholic on Instagram for up-to-date news and information. Thanks for reading, Falcoholics.