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Sanders, Deion 1967–

Deion Sanders 1967

Professional football and baseball player

A Cocky Freshman

Proved Baseball and Football Prowess in College

Offered Highest Salary for a Defensive Player

Left Atlanta to Pursue Super Bowl Dream

Returned to Baseball

New Wife, New Life

Sources

Deion Sanders has been a top-ranked athlete since the day he entered high school. Sanders has carried the nickname Prime Time with him from his high school days. The name summed up his goal: to be a prime time playera famous, wealthy, and admired athlete. Playing both football and baseball, Sanders achieved his goal and became the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.

Ever since Sanders left Florida State University as the fifth player selected in the 1989 football draft, he has cut a controversial swath across two sports. Hey, all my life I be the man, he announced in Sports Illustrated. I mean, Ive been in the spotlight at every level. Its just a bigger spotlight. I learned the system in college. How do you think defensive backs get attention? They dont pay nobody to be humble. Some people will come out to see me do well. Some people will come out to see me get run over. But love me or hate me, theyre going to come out. Im a businessman now, and the product is me. Prime Time. Im the first defensive back to make a million dollars a year. Set a record for a bonus. Cash up front.

Sanderss uninhibited drive for fame led him to adorn himself with gold and bright clothes, drive a fleet of expensive cars, and occasionally quarrel with those who make an issue of his flashy attire. Sandersthe first athlete ever to hit a home run in a professional baseball game and score a touchdown in a professional football game in the same weekwas not about to apologize for his mode of dress or his opinions.

Deion Luwynn Sanders was born and raised in Fort Myers, Florida. His name was suggested by a cousin, but his mother, Connie Knight, added the extra letters to dress it up a bit. Sanders had little to say about his upbringing in a poor section of Fort Myers, except that athletics saved him from a life of crime. It wouldve been easy for me to sell drugs, he remarked in Esquire. But I had practice. My friends who didnt have practice, they went straight to the streets and never left.

Sanders, on the other hand, began scoring touchdowns for the Pop Warner youth league team at the age of eight. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, and he liked basketball best. Let me tell you something, Sanders was quoted as saying in Esquire. The best athletes in the world end up at home on the corner. Oh you bet they do. I call them Idas. He elaborated: If Ida done this, Id be here today. If Ida practiced a little harder, damn, Id be a superstar. Theyll be standing on that corner till they die telling you all the things they woulda done. I see em all the time. Guys who were as fast as me when we were kids.

A Cocky Freshman

Sanderss mother must have had some tense moments worrying about her son despite his athletic ability. When Deion was a teenager he came under the spell of a man he called an uncle from the other side, who was a drug dealer. This glamorous, jewelry-laden man convinced Sanders to stay away from drugs entirely. Sanders

At a Glance

Born Deion Luwynn Sanders on August 9, 1967, in Fort Myers, FL; son of Constance Knight; married Carolyn Chambers (divorced); married Pilar Biggers, 1999; children: (with Chambers) Diondra and Deion, Jr., (with Biggers) one child. Education: Attended Florida State University, 1985-88.

Career: Professional football and baseball player. Picked fifth in first round of 1989 National Football League (NFL) draft by Atlanta Falcons; cornerback and punt returner for Falcons, 1989-94; San Francisco 49ers, 1994; Dallas Cowboys, 1995-00; Washington Redskins, 2000-01. Signed with New York Yankees baseball club, 1988; played in minor leagues in Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota, FL, and Columbus, OH; promoted to major leagues in June of 1989; played in less than 20 games with parent team, 1989-90, Atlanta Braves, left-handed hitter and outfielder, 1991-94; Cincinnati Reds, 1994-.

Selected Awards: Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back, 1988; named Pro Bowl cornerback, 1992.

Addresses: c/o Cincinnati Reds, 100 Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

did not smoke or drink. See, in my hometown, [drug dealing] was the community job, Sanders recalled in Sports Illustrated. You graduated from high school to the streets and became a drug dealer. Sanders added that he was trying to show youngsters that one can earn the flashy jewelry and trappings of wealth without breaking the law. Kids from the streets look up to drug dealers, he said. But Im showing them something else. Im proving you can do it on the right side.

Sanders was heavily recruited out of high school, and he finally chose to attend Florida State University. In high school he had been a left-handed option quarterback, but in college he switched to defense and special teams. Anybody can play wide receiver, Sanders explained in Sports Illustrated. I wanted to be special. He wanted to be so special, in fact, that he arrived in Tallahassee, the site of Florida State, in a car with Prime Time on the front license plate. He also demanded that his own poster be sold at games.

Such cockiness in a freshman was almost beyond belief, but Sanders began to make his presence felt almost immediately. At six feet and 185 pounds, he proved to be a quick and deadly opponent. During his years at Florida State he scored six career touchdowns on punt or interception returns and was named an All-American two times. In his last year he led the country in yardage for punt returns with a 15.2 yard average and earned the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation.

Proved Baseball and Football Prowess in College

Sanders also set records for audacity, both on and off the field. Once, during the halftime show at a game against South Carolina University, he shouted to the fans of the SCU team, which was losing by a wide margin, that they ought to ask for their money back. Another timein a move reminiscent of baseball legend Babe Ruthhe prepared for a punt return by announcing to the Clemson Tiger bench: This ones going back! He proceeded to run 76 yards for a touchdown, then struck a long pose in the end zone. All of this was accomplished at Clemsons field, in front of a hostile crowd.

Sanderss ability was not lost on the professional scouts nor on the sportswriters who cover football. Sports Illustrated reporter Albert Kim called the cocky cornerback one of the best defensive back prospects pro scouts have ever seen. Football, however, was not the only sport Sanders conquered in college. He also played baseball, helping Florida State to advance to the 1987 college World Serieswhere they finished fifthand ran the 400 meter for the track team. He was best remembered, though, for his participation in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, in which Florida State beat Nebraska 3128. That year, Florida State finished the season ranked second in the nation behind the perennial power, Miami University.

Small wonder, then, that Sanders was picked high in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. The teams management soon discovered, however, that they had more than they bargained for in Deion Sanders. They offered the player #400,000. He asked for #11 million. Needless to say, contract negotiations were lengthy and at times venomous, but Sanders could afford to be patient. In 1988 he had signed with the New York Yankees organization to play professional baseball. By the time he was drafted as a football player he was already being touted as a major league prospect. Indeed, the paperwork with Atlanta was still being revisedin Sanderss favorwhen he was called to Yankee Stadium to fill in for an injured outfielder.

Sanders had played in less than 100 professional baseball games when he joined the Yankees in June of 1989. His jump to the big leagues was extraordinarymany top-quality stars spend as many as five years in the minors, and Sanders was there less than a year. Even more remarkable was the attitude Sanders brought with him to Yankee Stadium. He told the media that baseball was, for him, a relief from the hard knocks of football. He played it as a rest from the real work, which he saw as his eventual move to the Falcons. Ive always said I love football and that baseball is my girlfriend, he told Sports Illustrated in 1989.

Offered Highest Salary for a Defensive Player

Late in the summer of 1989, the Falcons offered Sanders a #4.4 million contractsalary and bonusesfor five years, the highest sum of money ever offered to a defensive player. Only 24 hours after slugging a home run for the Yankees against the Seattle Mariners, Sanders bid his baseball pals goodbye and headed to Atlanta for his first game as a football pro. His plain-spoken attitude and high salary demands had not endeared him to the Falcons fans, but he soon changed many minds. Five minutes into his first professional game, he ran back a punt for a 68-yard touchdown. No other playereven the much-ballyhooed Bo Jacksonhad ever hit a home run and scored a touchdown in professional games in the same week.

By the end of the 199192 season Sanders was All-Pro at his cornerback position, appreciated for his ability to defend against the leagues surest receivers and for his capacity to intercept and run with the ball. He even saw a few downs in the position of wide receiver, but defense remained his strong suit. With his much-maligned Prime Time antics now overshadowed somewhat by the manic behavior of new Falcons coach Jerry Glanville, Sanders helped the Falcons to advance to the NFL playoffs early in 1992 for the first time since 1983.

With the onset of the 1990s, that old girlfriend, baseball, was calling Sanders to a more serious relationship. Released by the New York Yankees in 1990he played in less than twenty games with the parent teamSanders signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves that allowed him to pursue both baseball and football. As a left-handed hitter who could possibly become a switch-hitter, Sanders had real potential on the diamond. He was greatly disappointed to have to sit in the stands and watch the Braves go to the World Series in 1991.

Despite his continued quality play with the Falcons, Sanders expressed a desire to seek a way out of his football contract so he can concentrate on baseball. He expressed in Sports Illustrated that the turning point for him was seeing a banner flying from the upper deck of Atlantas Fulton County Stadium during a Braves game. It read: Deion, this is your brain, followed by a drawing of a baseball, and This is your brain on drugs, followed by a drawing of a football. Sanders said: Best banner Ive ever seen. I took it to heart.

During a lengthy negotiation process with the Atlanta Falcons during the late summer and early fall of 1992, Sanders outlined in Sports Illustrated what he felt were his choices: A, play baseball full-time through the World Series and go to football on November 1; B, play baseball during the week, football on the weekends; C, play football only; D, the hell with em both, and just go fishing. Well, it looks like B and D are out. In a compromise, Sanders and the Falcons came to an agreement that he would stay with the squad. He missed three football games because of postseason play with the Braves, who eventually lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

In baseball and football, Sanders continued to strut on the field, his gold chains flying. His vanity prompted a shaky relationship with the media. After the Braves won the pennant in October of 1992, the player doused CBS reporter Tim McCarver with water three times because the correspondent had criticized Sanders for planning to play for the Falcons and the Braves on the same day. Commenting on his reputation for being an egomaniac, Sanders noted in Sports Illustrated, On the field, I cant help getting excited about what I do. In a white man, thats called confidence. In a black man, thats called cockiness, trash-talking. You can say one thing and be labeled a trash-talker, and a black man cant shake that image. I cant shake that image.

That image, however, slowly began to alter as Sanders became known throughout Atlanta for his charitable donations to childrens hospitals and his dream of building an after-school sports program to keep youngsters away from drugs. Sanders and his fiancee, Carolyn Chambers, had a daughter, Diondra. The couple were later married, and had a son, Deion, Jr. When not on the field pursuing one or the other of his professional sports, he lived quietly with his family in Alpharetta, Georgia. People seem to take the way I perform on my job for the way I am in life, Sanders was quoted as saying in Sports Illustrated. The truth is, Im a very family-and home-oriented person.

Left Atlanta to Pursue Super Bowl Dream

1994 brought Sanders two career changes. That spring, he left the Atlanta Braves baseball team for the Cincinnati Reds. The change was a positive one. This is not like a military-run team, Sanders commented to the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. We have a great time. It reminds me of the Falcons. The reporters have been good, the fans are good, the teammates are good. Everythings all good.

In the fall, he signed to play football with the San Francisco 49ers. Turning down more lucrative offers, Sanders agreed to a year-long contract at #1.25 million. For Sanders, the decision was not so much about money, as about his desire to play in a Super Bowl. I dont think I could have fulfilled that dream in Atlanta, he told Knight-Ridder.

Sanderss style and ability were a welcome addition in San Francisco. As Knight-Ridder writer S.A. Paolantonio observed, his sparkling smile and dazzling talent have put the 49ers back at center stage. Paolantonio continued, Hes the Wilt Chamberlain of his timea performer so complete and dominating that he makes the other players look like theyre playing at a lower level.

At the end of the 1994 season, Sanderss dream came true. The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl. But, not only did Sanders get to play in a Super Bowl, he helped the team win.

The following year, Sanders signed a #35 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys. In addition, Sanders decided to take a year off from baseball, in order to concentrate on becoming footballs only full-time player to play both offense and defense. Now well see how good I can be, he told Jet. I want to have an impact on both sides of the ball. The close of the 1995 season saw the Cowboys winning the Super BowlSanders had now won two back-to-back Super Bowls.

In 1996 Sanderss wife filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery and, according to Jet, cruel treatment. Several weeks later, though, the couple reconciled and asked the court to dismiss Carolyns petition. However, their reconciliation did not last, and the couple divorced in 1998.

Returned to Baseball

Sanders returned to baseball and the Cincinnati Reds in 1997. Sanders told the Sporting News, I honestly believe I was born to play football. Its natural for me. Baseball is tougher. And more challenging. He continued, I know Ive never played as well as I wish I could, and Id like to have a breakthrough year. That means being more patient, getting on base more consistently so I can use my speed. I want to prove some things. Although football was his strength, Sanders was determined to improve his baseball game. He told the Sporting News, I know in football they better not throw it in my zone or Im going to get it. I want to get that confidence in baseball, too.

Even though his talent as a football player exceeded his ability as a baseball player, his fellow Reds were happy to have Sanders on the team. We really like the guy, team captain Barry Larkin told the Sporting News, because he is a legitimate good guy and because he brings an energy to a team every day that few players ever have. And Sanders was just as happy with Cincinnati. This is the only place I want to play, he told the Sporting News.

Sanderss hard work and determination paid off. With his 56 stolen bases, he finished the 1997 season ranking 2nd in the National League. Sanders then decided he needed another break from baseball.

As his marriage crumbled, divorce becoming an inevitability, Sanders plunged into a spiritual and emotional darkness. Ready to end the pain, he considered (and attempted, according to some sources) suicide. One night he was awakened by a bright light illuminating his Cincinnati apartment. In that moment, Sanders found God. He turned to Bishop T.D. Jakes, who had counseled Sanders and his wife, for spiritual guidance, and Jakes became Sanderss mentor. Sanders chronicled his conversion in the 1998 book Power, Money, & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life.

With his new-found religious conviction, Sanders began attending weekly Bible study meetings with the Dallas Cowboys, becoming, according to the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, a sort of spiritual ringleader for these weekly gatherings. Utilizing his trademark charm and flamboyance, Sanders sent out a weekly call over the loudspeaker, asking the team to attend the lunch-time meetings. Usually 15 or 20 teammates gathered each week. Sanders explained the importance of the weekly meetings to Knight-Ridder: Some guys are bleeding inside. Some are on the brink of suicide, who are hurting, in pain, dont even want to go home after practice. You dont know what theyre dealing with. A lot of people dont even care. They just see them as a commodity. You (the media) see them as an interview. I see them as something different than that.

New Wife, New Life

In 1999 Sanders married Pilar Biggers, a model and actress. The wedding was held on Nassaus Paradise Island, with Bishop T.D. Jakes officiating. Pilar is a good woman with Christian values and has helped me rebuild the shattered pieces of my life, Sanders told Jet. Miracle of miracles, I am alive and in love again! The couples first child was born in 2000.

Sanders was cut from the Dallas Cowboys in 2000 for salary cap reasons. Days later, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins. The seven-year contact provided a #56 million paycheck. Its wonderful to be a Redskin, Sanders told Jet. Theyve always had something special. Theres nothing like these fans, this tradition. A year later, however, Sanders decided to retire from football altogether.

Many could not believe Sanderss decision. Darren Hambrick, linebacker for the Cowboys, told the Dallas Morning News, How could the godfather of all corners just walk away? Darren Woodson agreed, telling the Dallas Morning News, He has a lot more game in him. I know that. But Sanderss decision was final. However, he had not spent much time thinking about what he would do now that he had retired. Sanders told the Dallas Morning News, The only thing I know for sure that Im going to do is fish until there are no more fish in the lake.

Sources

Books

The Complete Marquis Whos Who, Marquis, 2001.

Periodicals

Associated Press (wire reports), October 10, 1992; October 12, 1992; October 17, 1992; October 18, 1992.

Atlanta Constitution, September 15, 1989; October 19, 1989.

Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2001; July 29, 2001.

Esquire, June 1992; October 2000.

Jet, March 11, 1996; October 7, 1996; October 14, 1996; August 3, 1998; June 14, 1999; June 26, 2000.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 20, 1994; September 14, 1994; October 1, 1994; November 26, 1994; December 3, 1998;

Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI), August 1, 1992; September 20, 1992; October 10, 1992; October 12, 1992; October 17, 1992; October 18, 1992.

Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1998.

Sports Illustrated, June 12, 1989; November 13, 1989; April 27, 1992; August 24, 1992.

Washington Post, June 4, 1989.

Other

Additional information obtained from Atlanta Braves 1992 Media Guide.

Mark Kram and Jennifer M. York

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Sanders, Deion

Deion Sanders

1967-

American football and baseball player

The only man in professional sports history to play in both the Super Bowl and World Series, Deion Sanders has been a top-ranked athlete since his high school years. Sanders credits sports with keeping him out of trouble as a teenager. Nicknamed "Prime Time" during high school, Sanders has probably received more prime-time sports coverage than any other athlete in recent years because of his involvement in both professional football and major league baseball. He played 12 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), including stints with the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins. In major league baseball, Sanders played for the New York Yankees in 1989 and 1990; the Atlanta Braves from 1991 through the first part of 1994; the Cincinnati Reds in the second part of 1994, the first part of 1995, and all of 1997 and 2001; and for the San Francisco Giants in the latter part of the 1995 season. After leaving football and baseball in 2001, Sanders joined CBS Sports as a feature reporter/contributor for the NFL Today television show, and the next year became a studio analyst.

Born in Fort Myers, Florida

He was born Deion Luwynn Sanders in Fort Myers, Florida, on August 9, 1967. The son of Connie Knight (a cleaning woman), he grew up in a poor neighborhood of the southwest Florida city. Active in sports as a boy, he stayed busy enough to avoid the lure of the ever-present

drug trade that ensnared many of his friends. Years later Sanders told Esquire: "It would've been easy for me to sell drugs. But I had practice. My friends who didn't have practice, they went straight to the streets and never left." At the age of eight, he joined a Pop Warner youth league football team. He also joined a local Little League team. While a student at North Fort Myers High School, Sanders played baseball and football, as well as basketball, which was his biggest passion as a teen. A high school friend dubbed Sanders "Prime Time" after he scored 30 points in a basketball game. Sanders earned all-state honors in all three sports.

In his senior year of high school, the multisport star was deluged with offers from colleges but eventually decided to attend Florida State University (FSU) in Florida's capital city of Tallahassee. At college Sanders began to focus more of his energies on football and baseball. Although he had played left-handed option quarterback in high school, he switched in college to defense and special teams. During his years at FSU, Sanders twice was named an All-American in football and scored six touchdowns on punt or interception returns. As a senior he led the country in yardage for punt returns with an average of 15.2 yards. He also won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country. On the baseball field, Sanders continued to shine, helping to power FSU's drive to the College World Series in 1987, where the team from Tallahassee finished fifth.

Drafted by Atlanta Falcons

In the 1989 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons picked Sanders early in the first round, offering him a contract that would pay him $400,000. Sanders demanded $11 million, and lengthy, often bitter negotiations followed. In the meantime, however, Sanders kept busy on the baseball field, having signed with the New York Yankees in 1988. He played about 100 games for minor league teams in the Yankees' farm system before being called up by the Yankees in June 1989 to fill in for an injured outfielder. Later that summer Sanders accepted a five-year contract from the Falcons that would pay him $4.4 million in salary and bonuses. He made his professional football debut only 24 hours after blasting a home run for the Yankees in a game against the Seattle Mariners. And a flashy debut it was. Five minutes into the game, Sanders returned a punt for a 68-yard touchdown, becoming the first athlete ever to hit a home run and score a touchdown in professional games the same week. Over the next couple of years, he solidified his position as cornerback for the Falcons, winning All-Pro honors at the end of the 1991 season.

Released by the Yankees in 1990, Sanders quickly signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves. Although his contract with the Braves allowed him to play both baseball and football, Sanders soon was telling sportswriters that he wished he could focus all of his energies on baseball. Particularly irksome to Sanders was his inability to play postseason baseball because of his gridiron responsibilities. He eventually negotiated a compromise with the Falcons that kept him in football but allowed him to play postseason baseball. This cleared the way for Sanders to play in the 1992 World Series, where he batted .533 against the Toronto Blue Jays, who eventually won the championship. He missed the first three games of the football season, triggering a storm of criticism. Despite the missed games, Sanders led Pro Bowl balloting in both the cornerback and kickoff returner categories. He led the NFL with a 26.7 kickoff return average and a total of 1,067 yards.

Chronology

1967 Born in Fort Myers, Florida, on August 9
1988 Signed by New York Yankees
1989 Picked in first round of NFL draft by Atlanta Falcons
1993-98 Married to Carolyn Chambers
1999 Marries actress and model Pilar Biggers on May 21
2001 Announces retirement from football and baseball; joins NFL Today with CBS Sports

Leads NFL in Interceptions

Batting .276 for the Braves during the 1993 regular season, Sanders was felled by a respiratory infection in August. The illness also kept him out of football for a few games at the beginning of the season, but he nevertheless managed to lead the NFL with seven interceptions in 11 games. He was named National Football Conference (NFC) Defensive Player of the Month for November and was chosen as a Pro Bowl starter.

Sanders made some significant changes on both the baseball and football fronts in 1994. At the beginning of the baseball season, the Braves traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. When a players' strike prematurely ended the baseball season in August, Sanders was batting .283 for the Reds. In football, he signed a one-year contract to play for the San Francisco 49ers, hoping the move would increase his chances of getting to the Super Bowl. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year after tying the 49ers' single-season record with three interception returns for touchdowns. And his Super Bowl dream came true, as the 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers, 49-26, helped by Sanders's contribution of four tackles and an interception.

More changes were in store for Sanders in 1995. In July he was traded by the Reds to the San Francisco Giants, where he ended the season with a batting average of .268 and 8 steals. Once again a free agent in football, Sanders signed a seven-year, $35 million contract to play for the Dallas Cowboys. His debut with the Cowboys was delayed until the end of October by arthroscopic surgery on his ankle. For much of the regular season with the Cowboys, Sanders seemed to be still finding his way, but in postseason play the cornerback helped push Dallas to a Super Bowl victory. Sanders skipped the 1996 baseball season, instead focusing all his energies on football, becoming the first full-time, two-way NFL player since Chuck Bednarik, who had played from 1949 to 1962. On offense, Sanders caught 36 passes for 475 yards while continuing to prove a force to reckon with on defense. At season's end, the Cowboys reported that Sanders had been on the field for half of their offensive plays and 80 percent on defense.

Returns to Baseball

In 1997 Sanders returned to baseball, batting .273 for the Reds and accounting for a total of 23 runs batted in. He missed the first two weeks of the football season while continuing to play for the Reds. Although he missed the tail end of the baseball season, Sanders still managed to rank second in the National League with 56 stolen bases. His season with the Cowboys was further shortened by a rib injury that caused him to miss the last three games of the regular season. Despite the missed games, Sanders in 1997 was again named All-Pro and also tapped as NFC Defensive Back of the Year. One of the highlights of Sanders's football season came on September 28 when he returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown in a game against the Chicago Bears. It was to be the longest punt return of his career and the fourth longest in team history. Sanders's accomplishments of 1997 are all the more remarkable because away from sports it was a year of great personal turmoil for him. His marriage to college sweetheart Carolyn Chambers was ending (they divorced in 1998), and Sanders later admitted that he twice attempted to commit suicide that year.

For the next three years, Sanders played no baseball at all. His football season in 1998 was cut short when he injured his toe in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. He returned to the Cowboys for the team's playoff loss to the Cardinals. Despite his injury, Sanders was named to his seventh consecutive NFC Pro Bowl squad as a cornerback and kick returner. He was also named NFL Special Teams Player of the Year by the NFL Alumni Association for his brilliant performance as a punt returner. In the spring of 1999, Sanders's personal life took a turn for the better when the two-sport star married New York model and actress Pilar Biggers in a private ceremony on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Presiding at the marriage ceremony was Bishop Thomas D. Jakes Sr., founder of the Dallas-based T. D. Jakes Ministries and a close spiritual adviser to Sanders.

Awards and Accomplishments

1987-88 Named All-American in college football
1988 Receives Jim Thorpe Award as best defensive back
1989 Becomes the only athlete in modern history to score touchdown and hit home run in professional play during the same week
1990 Returns interception 82 yards for touchdown, the longest touchdown play of the year in the NFL
1992 Bats .533 in World Series against Toronto Blue Jays
1992 Leads NFL with average kickoff return of 26.7 yards and total of 1,067 yards
1992-98 Selected to play in Pro Bowl

Related Biography: Bishop Thomas D. Jakes Sr.

A major influence in Sanders's life since the mid-1990s has been Bishop Thomas D. Jakes Sr., founder of the Potter's House, a nondenominational, multiracial church in Dallas, and the T. D. Jakes Ministries. In October 1997, signaling a rebirth of Sanders's Christianity, Jakes baptized Sanders and fellow Dallas Cowboys players Emmitt Smith, Omar Stoutmire, and George Hegamin. Jakes also wrote the foreword to Sanders's Power, Money, and Sex, published in 1998.

Jakes was born and raised in Charlestown, West Virginia, the son of Ernest and Odith Jakes. He grew up in a hillside neighborhood and "From a very young age, he was devoted to the gospel," according to Jakes's biography on the Web site of T. D. Jakes Ministries. Jakes was called to the ministry at the age of 17 and began preaching part time while studying psychology at West Virginia State University. He later took over as music director at the Charleston church he attended as a boy and in 1982 became a full-time pastor at the same church.

The first church founded by Jakes began with only ten members and was located in a storefront in Montgomery, West Virginia. Eventually Jakes's message attracted a large, racially mixed congregation and became known as the Greater Emanuel Temple of Faith. By the time Jakes relocated to Dallas in 1996, the church's membership had grown to nearly 1,000.

Misses First Two Games of Season

In 1999 Sanders missed the first two games of the football season while recovering from toe surgery he had undergone during the off-season. With a punt-return average of 11.5 yards, he finished fourth in the NFC for the season. The most impressive of Sanders's punt returns that season came in an October 31 game against the Indianapolis Colts, when he returned a punt 76 yards to the two-yard line. On November 25, Sanders enjoyed his fifth career two-interception game when he picked off Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino twice. In the spring of 2000 the Cowboys cut Sanders for salary cap reasons. Once again a free agent, Sanders on June 6 was signed by the Washington Redskins to a seven-year, $56 million contract. Interviewed by Jet, Sanders said of his new team: "It's wonderful to be a Redskin. They've always had something special. There's nothing like these fans, this tradition." Although he turned in a credible performance for the Redskins in 2000, Sanders announced a year later that he was leaving football.

Never one to remain idle for long, Sanders in the spring of 2001 returned to baseball after an absence of more than three years. But it proved to be a very short stint indeed. After only 32 games with the Reds, Sanders, who was batting a disappointing .173, was released in late June.

Career Statistics: Football

Tackles Fumbles Interceptions
Yr Team GP TOT SOLO AST SACK FF BK INT TD
ATL: Atlanta Falcons; DAL: Dallas Cowboys; SFO: San Francisco 49ers; WAS: Washington Redskins.
1989 ATL 15 39 28 11 0.0 2 0 5 0
1990 ATL 16 50 31 19 0.0 0 0 3 2
1991 ATL 15 49 35 14 1.0 2 0 6 1
1992 ATL 13 66 44 22 0.0 2 0 3 0
1993 ATL 11 34 27 7 0.0 1 0 7 0
1994 SFO 14 36 36 0 0.0 0 0 6 3
1995 DAL 9 25 24 1 0.0 0 0 2 0
1996 DAL 16 33 33 0 0.0 1 0 2 0
1997 DAL 13 33 30 3 0.0 0 0 2 1
1998 DAL 11 25 25 0 0.0 0 0 5 1
1999 DAL 14 42 40 2 0.0 1 0 3 0
2000 WAS 16 41 40 1 0.0 1 0 4 0
TOTAL 163 474 385 89 1.0 10 0 48 8

Career Statistics: Baseball

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB
ATL: Atlanta Braves; CIN: Cincinnati Reds; NYY: New York Yankees; SFG: San Francisco Giants.
1989 NYY .234 14 47 7 11 2 7 3 8 1
1990 NYY .158 57 133 24 21 3 9 13 27 8
1991 ATL .191 54 110 16 21 4 13 12 23 11
1992 ATL .304 97 303 54 92 8 28 18 52 26
1993 ATL .276 95 272 42 75 6 28 16 42 19
1994 ATL .288 46 191 32 55 4 21 16 28 19
CIN .277 46 184 26 51 0 7 16 35 19
1995 CIN .240 33 129 19 31 1 10 9 18 16
SFG .285 52 214 29 61 5 18 18 42 8
1997 CIN .273 115 465 53 127 5 23 34 67 56
2001 CIN .173 32 75 6 13 1 4 4 10 3
TOTAL .263 641 2123 308 558 39 168 159 352 186

Another major change in Sanders's life came in the late 1990s in the wake of the breakup of his first marriage. He renounced his flashy, hedonistic lifestyle to become a born-again Christian. In an interview with Bob Cohn of the Washington Times, Sanders spoke of the challenge he had faced in separating his job from his life. "Does Michael Jackson wear his glove home? Does Bill Cosby sit around and eat Jell-O at home? Is there a pulpit in the pastor's living room at home? You have to distinguish between the twothis is my job, and this is my life.

I've always been able to separate the two, even when other people haven't. But I took that other person with me sometimes. I took him to nightclubs, to bars, to places where he shouldn't have been. And now, I'm murdering slowly a person that I built up to take me into prosperity and financial gain. I'm killing him slowly. I'm working on Deion now."

These days Sanders is focusing most of his energies on being a family man. He lives with his wife, Pilar, and three children in Plano, Texas, outside Dallas. He began working full-time as a studio analyst for the NFL Today on CBS Sports. Whether he stays retired from both baseball and football remains to be seen. But even if he never plays again, there can be no doubt that Sanders has left an indelible mark on both sports.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: c/o CBS Sports, 666 Third Ave., 18th Fl., New York, NY 10017. Fax: (646) 487-2597. Phone: (646) 487-1000. Online: http://www.deion-sanders.com.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY SANDERS:

(With Jim Nelson Black) Power, Money, and Sex, Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

"Deion Sanders." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 31. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001.

Periodicals

Cohn, Bob. "Prime Time Faith: He Has Money. He Has Championship Rings. And, Deion Sanders." Washington Times (August 31, 2000): E2.

Cook, Kevin. "Playboy Interview: Deion Sanders." Playboy (August 1994).

"Deion Is Done." Sports Illustrated (July 27, 2001).

Kirkpatrick, Curry. "'They Don't Pay Nobody to Be Humble,' So Says Deion Sanders." Sports Illustrated (November 13, 1989): 52.

Other

"Bishop T. D. Jakes Biography." T.D. Jakes Ministries. http://www.thepottershouse.org/BK_popup.html (January 27, 2003).

"Deion Sanders." Baseball-reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/sandede02.shtml (December 1, 2002).

"#21, Deion Sanders." ESPN.com. http://football.espn.go.com/nfl/players/stats?statsId=589 (December 1, 2002).

Sketch by Don Amerman

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Sanders, Deion 1967–

Deion Sanders 1967

Professional football and baseball player

At a Glance

A Prime Time Freshman

Proved Baseball and Football Prowess in College

Offered Highest Salary for a Defensive Player

Sources

Deion Sanders has been a top-ranked athlete since the day he entered high school, and he is well on the way to All-Pro status in two professional sports. While still in his mid-twenties, Sanders had already made footballs Pro Bowl for his dazzling work as a cornerback and punt returner for the Atlanta Falcons. Showing the same enthusiasm in baseball, he is a hard-hitting outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, a team that made it to the 1991 World Series. Sanders has carried the nickname Prime Time with him from his high school days. The name sums up his goal: to be a prime time playera famous, wealthy, and admired athlete. Sanders told a Sports Illustrated correspondent that he is after one thingsuccess. Enormous success.... Im a good baseball player. But I can be a great baseball player. A star baseball player.

Ever since Sanders left Florida State University as the fifth player selected in the 1989 football draft, he has cut a controversial swath across two sports. Hey, all my life I be the man, he announced in Sports Illustrated. I mean, Ive been in the spotlight at every level. Its just a bigger spotlight. I learned the system in college. How do you think defensive backs get attention?... They dont pay nobody to be humble. Some people will come out to see me do well. Some people will come out to see me get run over. But love me or hate me, theyre going to come out. Im a businessman now, and the product is me. Prime Time. Im the first defensive back to make a million dollars a year. Set a record for a bonus. Cash up front.

Sanderss uninhibited drive for fame has led him to adorn himself with gold and bright clothes, drive a fleet of expensive cars, and occasionally quarrel with those who make an issue of his flashy attire. Sandersthe first athlete ever to hit a home run in a professional baseball game and score a touchdown in a professional football game in the same week is not about to apologize for his mode of dress or his opinions. According to Sports Illustrated, he calls himself a Nineties brother, a player whos built to last.... Hes not gonna go to work and just shut his mouth, do his job, pick up his check, live happily ever after. That is not a Nineties brother.... A Nineties brother will abide by the rules. But he will not shut up. And if hes pissed off about something, youre gonna hear about it.

Deion Luwynn Sanders was born and raised in Fort Myers,

At a Glance

Born Deion Luwynn Sanders, August 9, 1967, in Fort Myers, FL; son of Constance Knight; fiance of Carolyn Chambers; children: (with Chambers) Diondra. Education: Attended Florida State University, 1985-88.

Signed with New York Yankees baseball club, 1988; played in minor leagues in Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota, FL, and Columbus, OH; promoted to major leagues in June of 1989; played in less than 20 games with parent team, 1989-90, and was released by the Yankees, 1990; signed with Atlanta Braves, 1991; left-handed hitter and outfielder for the Braves, 1991. Picked fifth in first round of 1989 National Football League (NFL) draft by Atlanta Falcons; cornerback and punt returner for Falcons, 1989.

Selected awards: Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back; named Pro Bowl cornerback, 1992.

Addresses: c/o Atlanta Falcons, 1-85 at Suwanee Rd., Suwanee, GA 30174; or c/o Atlanta Braves, P.O. Box 4064, Atlanta, GA 30302.

Florida. His name was suggested by a cousin, but his mother, Connie Knight, added the extra letters to dress it up a bit. Sanders has little to say about his upbringing in a poor section of Fort Myers, except that athletics saved him from a life of crime. It wouldve been easy for me to sell drugs, he remarked in Esquire. But I had practice. My friends who didnt have practice, they went straight to the streets and never left.

Sanders, on the other hand, began scoring touchdowns for the Pop Warner youth league team at the age of eight. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, and he liked basketball best. Let me tell you something, Sanders was quoted as saying in Esquire. The best athletes in the world end up at home on the corner. Oh you bet they do. I call them Idas. He elaborated: If Ida done this, Id be here today. If Ida practiced a little harder, damn, Id be a superstar. Theyll be standing on that corner till they die telling you all the things they woulda done. I see em all the time. Guys who were as fast as me when we were kids.

Sanderss mother must have had some tense moments worrying about her son despite his athletic ability. When Deion was a teenager he came under the spell of a man he called an uncle from the other side, who was a drug dealer. This glamorous, jewelry-laden man convinced Sanders to stay away from drugs entirely. To this day Deion Sanders does not smoke or drink. See, in my hometown, [drug dealing] was the community job, Sanders recalled in Sports Illustrated. You graduated from high school to the streets and became a drug dealer. Sanders added that he is trying to show youngsters that one can earn the flashy jewelry and trappings of wealth without breaking the law. Kids from the streets... look up to drug dealers, he said. But Im showing them something else.... Im proving you can do it on the right side.

A Prime Time Freshman

Sanders was heavily recruited out of high school, and he finally chose to attend Florida State University. In high school he had been a left-handed option quarterback, but in college he switched to defense and special teams. Anybody can play wide receiver, Sanders explained in Sports Illustrated. I wanted to be special. He wanted to be so special, in fact, that he arrived in Tallahassee, the site of Florida State, in a car with Prime Time on the front license plate. He also demanded that his own poster be sold at games.

Such cockiness in a freshman is almost beyond belief, but Sanders began to make his presence felt almost immediately. At six feet and 185 pounds, he proved to be a quick and deadly opponent. During his years at Florida State he scored six career touchdowns on punt or interception returns and was named an All-American two times. In his last year he led the country in yardage for punt returns with a 15.2 yard average and earned the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation.

Proved Baseball and Football Prowess in College

Sanders also set records for audacity, both on and off the field. Once, during the halftime show at a game against South Carolina University, he shouted to the fans of the SCU team, which was losing by a wide margin, that they ought to ask for their money back. Another timein a move reminiscent of baseball legend Babe Ruthhe prepared for a punt return by announcing to the Clemson Tiger bench: This ones going back! He proceeded to run 76 yards for a touchdown, then struck a long pose in the end zone. All of this was accomplished at Clemsons field, in front of a hostile crowd.

Sanderss ability was not lost on the professional scouts nor on the sportswriters who cover football. Sports Illustrated reporter Albert Kim called the cocky cornerback one of the best defensive back prospects pro scouts have ever seen. Football, however, was not the only sport Sanders conquered in college. He also played baseball, helping Florida State to advance to the 1987 college World Serieswhere they finished fifthand ran the 400 meter for the track team. He is best remembered, though, for his participation in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, in which Florida State beat Nebraska 31-28. That year, Florida State finished the season ranked second in the nation behind the perennial power, Miami University.

Small wonder, then, that Sanders was picked high in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. The teams management soon discovered, however, that they had more than they bargained for in Deion Sanders. They offered the player $400,000. He asked for $11 million. Needless to say, contract negotiations were lengthy and at times venomous, but Sanders could afford to be patient. In 1988 he had signed with the New York Yankees organization to play professional baseball. By the time he was drafted as a football player he was already being touted as a major league prospect. Indeed, the paperwork with Atlanta was still being revisedin Sanderss favorwhen he was called to Yankee Stadium to fill in for an injured outfielder.

Sanders had played in less than 100 professional baseball games when he joined the Yankees in June of 1989. His jump to the big leagues was extraordinarymany top-quality stars spend as many as five years in the minors, and Sanders was there less than a year. What is even more remarkable is the attitude Sanders brought with him to Yankee Stadium. He told the media that baseball was, for him, a relief from the hard knocks of football. He played it as a rest from the real work, which he saw as his eventual move to the Falcons. Ive always said I love football and that baseball is my girlfriend, he told Sports Illustrated in 1989.

Offered Highest Salary for a Defensive Player

Late in the summer of 1989, the Falcons offered Sanders a $4.4 million contractsalary and bonusesfor five years, the highest sum of money ever offered to a defensive player. Only 24 hours after slugging a home run for the Yankees against the Seattle Mariners, Sanders bid his baseball pals goodbye and headed to Atlanta for his first game as a football pro. His plain-spoken attitude and high salary demands had not endeared him to the Falcons fans, but he soon changed many minds. Five minutes into his first professional game, he ran back a punt for a 68-yard touchdown. No other playereven the much-ballyhooed Bo Jacksonhad ever hit a home run and scored a touchdown in professional games in the same week.

By the end of the 1991-92 season Sanders was All-Pro at his cornerback position, appreciated for his ability to defend against the leagues surest receivers and for his capacity to intercept and run with the ball. He even saw a few downs in the position of wide receiver, but defense remained his strong suit. With his much-maligned Prime Time antics now overshadowed somewhat by the manic behavior of new Falcons coach Jerry Glanville, Sanders helped the Falcons to advance to the NFL playoffs early in 1992 for the first time since 1983.

With the onset of the 1990s, that old girlfriend, baseball, was calling Sanders to a more serious relationship. Released by the New York Yankees in 1990he played in less than 20 games with the parent teamSanders signed a contract with the Atlanta Braves that allowed him to pursue both baseball and football. As a left-handed hitter who could possibly become a switch-hitter, Sanders has real potential on the diamond. He was greatly disappointed to have to sit in the stands and watch the Braves go to the World Series in 1991.

Despite his continued quality play with the Falcons, Sanders expressed a desire to seek a way out of his football contract so he could concentrate on baseball. He expressed in Sports Illustrated that the turning point for him was seeing a banner flying from the upper deck of Atlantas Fulton County Stadium during a Braves game. It read: Deion, this is your brain, followed by a drawing of a baseball, and This is your brain on drugs, followed by a drawing of a football. Sanders said: Best banner Ive ever seen. I took it to heart.

During a lengthy negotiation process with the Atlanta Falcons during the late summer and early fall of 1992, Sanders outlined in Sports Illustrated what he felt were his choices: A, play baseball full-time through the World Series and go to football on November 1; B, play baseball during the week, football on the weekends; C, play football only; D, the hell with em both, and just go fishing. Well, it looks like B and D are out. In a compromise, Sanders and the Falcons came to an agreement that he would stay with the squad. He missed three football games because of postseason play with the Braves, who eventually lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

In baseball and football, Sanders continues to strut on the field, his gold chains flying. His vanity has prompted a shaky relationship with the media. After the Braves won the pennant in October of 1992, the player doused CBS reporter Tim McCarver with water three times because the correspondent had criticized Sanders for planning to play for the Falcons and the Braves on the same day. Commenting on his reputation for being an egomaniac, Sanders noted in Sports Illustrated, On the field, I cant help getting excited about what I do. In a white man, thats called confidence. In a black man, thats called cockiness, trash-talking. You can say one thing and be labeled a trash-talker, and a black man cant shake that image. I cant shake that image.

The image may not be shaking yet, but it is beginning to quiver. Sanders is becoming known throughout Atlanta for his charitable donations to childrens hospitals and his dream of building an after-school sports program to keep youngsters away from drugs. Sanders and his fiancee, Carolyn Chambers, have a daughter, Diondra. When he is not on the field pursuing one or the other of his professional sports, he lives quietly with his family in Alpharetta, Georgia. People seem to take the way I perform on my job for the way I am in life, Sanders was quoted as saying in Sports Illustrated. The truth is, Im a very family- and home-oriented person.

Sources

Associated Press (wire reports), October 10,1992; October 12, 1992; October 17, 1992; October 18, 1992.

Atlanta Constitution, September 15,1989; October 19, 1989.

Esquire, June 1992.

Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI), August 1, 1992; September 20, 1992; October 10, 1992; October 12, 1992; October 17, 1992; October 18, 1992.

The Sporting News, September 20, 1992.

Sports Illustrated, June 12, 1989; November 13, 1989; April 27, 1992; August 24, 1992.

Washington Post, June 4, 1989.

Additional information obtained from Atlanta Braves 1992 Media Guide.

Mark Kram

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