Deion Sanders: The Rise Of Prime Time


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When you think of Deion Sanders, “Prime Time” inevitably comes to mind. Sanders was one of the NFL’s main attractions for years, both on and off the field. And yet the flamboyant, always casual cornerback spent a long time searching for true happiness, which almost became his downfall. However, Sanders had made a promise early on – and he had to keep his word. Let’s find out more about “Neon” Deion Sanders.

Deion Sanders: A Great Among Greats

What is the life story of Deion “Prime Time” Sanders?

Without a mask and a show, Deion Sanders, his gold jacket just pulled on, addressed the prominent rows of listeners. “Often when we have success in public, we stumble in our private lives,” the newly minted Hall of Famer admitted, continuing to share his experience: “This game taught me that when I’m down, I have to get back up “This game taught me that there are some things in life that you can’t tackle early enough.”

Football, Sanders added, “taught me how to be a man, how to get back up and keep going even through pain. This game has taught me so much about people, about dedication, and about sacrifice.”

They were honest words with a serious background. The story of Deion Sanders is that of the little boy who wanted to give his mother a better life – and who almost fell apart because of his own idea.

How was Deion Sanders’ childhood?

“I wanted to be rich, I always knew that I wanted to earn a lot of money. I wanted to be rich,” Sanders once said, looking back on his life. But the reality initially looked completely different. The now 56-year-old grew up in poor circumstances; his family lived in one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of Fort Myers. His father left the family at an early age and had major drug problems throughout his life.

He only showed up occasionally, often just to bet on his son’s games. Sanders’ mother, on the other hand, had two jobs and made ends meet for the children. At the same time, she knew that the environment could sooner or later lead her Deion down the wrong path and took action: When Sanders was nine years old, she signed him up for football.

How did Deion Sanders start playing football?

It was love at first sight. Not only was Sanders so physically talented that he easily outshined all his peers – but he also quickly realized something: As a teenager, Sanders realized that sports could help him give his mother a better life. He also knew that his best chance of doing so lay in college football as a springboard.

How did Deion Sanders become “Prime Time”?

So Sanders quickly decided on Florida State after turning down Georgia because coach Vince Dooley wanted to put him on the bench in his first year. An unthinkable proposition for Neon Deion, who instead dominated football, baseball and track for FSU – and created his own brand.

“Defensive backs weren’t paid well back then,” he later reflected, “so in college, I created this character that you could love or hate. But he was prime time.” The nickname, supposedly given to him by a high school friend after Sanders scored 30 points in a basketball game, would stay with him throughout his life. He summed up exactly what Sanders stood for for so long: the big stage.

In Sanders’ words, “I expected myself to be great. I expected myself to change things. If you don’t believe in yourself, how could anyone else believe in you?”

Did Deion Sanders skip his college classes?

Sanders increasingly subordinated everything to his success and his high ambitions; school education did not play a major role. For example, he almost symbolically decided the 1989 Sugar Bowl with an interception shortly before the end, which sealed the 13-7 victory over Auburn.

But as it later emerged, Sanders had not attended a single course in the semester. It was only in response to this that appropriate rules were written that require college athletes in Florida to fulfill their academic responsibilities in addition to sports.

How did Deion Sanders start his NFL career?

Deion Sanders’ success proved him right. The Atlanta Falcons selected him a few months after that Sugar Bowl with the fifth draft pick of the first round and gave Prime Time his freedom. Sanders, whom the Falcons made the highest-paid defensive player of all time, was allowed to continue playing baseball at the same time, thereby achieving historic firsts.

In his NFL debut, he scored his first touchdown on a punt return; just five days earlier he had hit a home run for the New York Yankees. Even then he knew: “Some people come to cheer me on, others come because they hope I fail. But whether they love me or hate me: They will come.”

His move to San Francisco in 1994, where he won the Super Bowl in his only year in the Bay Area, and, above all, the seven-year, $35 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys signed just a year later brought him to even bigger stages.

The showman enjoyed it to the fullest, or so it seemed to most outsiders. And yet he would later come clean with the media, but also with the fans: “All the things you thought of me, all the things you loved or didn’t accept – I have it all for mine Mother did.”

The Rise Of Prime Time

To date, Sanders is the only athlete to have played in a Super Bowl and a World Series and the only NFL player with a catch and an interception in a Super Bowl. But even more: Sanders managed to put his stamp on the game.

His outstanding performances ensured a rapidly growing appreciation of the cornerback position. More and more teams wanted a shutdown cornerback who could take opposing receivers out of the game one-on-one for four quarters.

Deion Sanders “high stepping” his way to yet another touchdown return

This also had a financial impact, even more so for Sanders. The charismatic superstar landed a wealth of lucrative advertising deals, in 1994 he released his own rap album and in 1995, now as Dallas Cowboy, the bon vivant was allowed to host Saturday Night Live. It was a life in the fast lane for years. But above all, it was a life that did not make Sanders happy.

His first marriage to his college sweetheart fell apart, which initially cost Sanders access to his children. His father, whom he still cared for despite everything, died of a brain tumor and Sanders’ inner emptiness continued to grow despite the Super Bowl triumphs with the San Francisco 49ers and the following year with the Cowboys. So big that he finally couldn’t take it anymore.

Did Deion Sanders attempt suicide?

In the spring of 1997, Deion Sanders attempted suicide. The man who played and inspired baseball and football at the highest level, who had millions of dollars in his account and other million-dollar deals in his pocket, saw no other way out.

“You run and run, trying desperately to hold on to something. But the enemy comes to kill, rob and destroy. He wanted to kill me and I was about to let that happen. I was just empty. I tried cars, jewelry, clothes, women, money – with everything. But nothing could fulfill me,” Sanders reported on CBS a year later. 

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