This article was written for Canespace by SolarCaneAs we now edge closer to the grande finale and remaining top 2 athletes that made the Fifty Fabulous Floridians (FFF) That Made Us Proud list I wanted once again to express my appreciation to those bloggers who have commented or debated the list and the rankings of individual athletes on it.
As you know by now we are doing the top five selections one at a time to give them the recognition they truly deserve. Today we move up to number 2 on the list, and with only the top spot still in question, the selections keep getting even better, yet more difficult.
Here are my brief thoughts on this week's selection Super Bowl champion and FSU star Deion Sanders:
Ultra talented, self confident, charismatic, self promoting, arrogant; he should have been a ‘Cane! Neon Deion is the only athlete in history of pro sports to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same week. Nine year part time MLB career combined with 14 years in the NFL. Sanders intercepted 53 passes in his NFL career for an unheard of 25 yards per return average. Eight pro bowls, NFL Defensive Player of The Year Regarded as one of the fastest players in NFL history.
# 2 Deion Sanders
Deion Luwynn Sanders Born on August 9, 1967 in Fort Myers, Florida) is a former National Football League cornerback, Major League Baseball outfielder, and is currently an NFL Network commentator. He carries the nicknames "Prime Time" and "Neon Deion".
Sanders is considered one of the most versatile athletes in history because he played two sports at multiple positions. In the NFL he played primarily at cornerback, but also played as a wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner for the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens, winning the Super Bowl with the 49ers and Cowboys. In Major League Baseball, he played for the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. His college career was at Florida State University, where he excelled at both football and baseball.
High school years
Sanders 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.
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. 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 would go on to be 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 has been married twice — to Carolyn Chambers, with whom he has two children (Deiondra and Deion Jr.), and Pilar Biggers with whom he has 3 children (Shilo, Shedeur and Shelomi). Deion appeared with his family on NBC's new show Celebrity Family Feud which premiered on June 24, 2008.
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.
Deion Sanders posted a 4.1-sec 40-yard dash at his pro-day workout prior to the 1989 NFL Draft. That 4.29-sec time is one of the fastest known 40-yard dash times ever recorded by an NFL player or prospect.
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 30th round of the 1989 draft by the New York Yankees and signed with 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.
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, he and his Braves ultimately lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.
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. After retiring from the NFL after the 2000 season, Sanders returned to the Reds in 2001, playing in 32 games before retiring from baseball for good.
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, 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). 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 49ers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During his career, Sanders intercepted 52 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, 1996–1999. 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.
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
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.
Career highlights and awards
· NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1994)
· 2× NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1993, 1994)
· Jim Thorpe Award (1988)