(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Has there ever been a more shameless self-promoter than Deion Sanders? Not just in football, but in any walk of life. His huckster histrionics make P.T. Barnum, Don King and Vince McMahon look like underachieving used car salesmen.
Sanders announced Monday that he has an agreement in place with the Baltimore Ravens and will return for his 15th season in the NFL. He said he is ahead of schedule compared to last year, when he played in just nine games for the Ravens.
According to him, his legacy is already written and his reason for coming back was for the love of the game.
Most believe he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the first ‘shut down’ corner in the league.
Many times over the years I’ve argued that he never had good cover skills and his only saving grace was his speed. I’ve never seen a defensive back shy away from laying a lick on someone like Deion does.
The other weapon he possesses is his mouth. He hyped himself up so much that offensive coordinators would design game plans that would stay away from Sanders’ side of the field like it was covered with land mines.
If I were calling games against him, I would throw at him every play just so my receivers could run him over after the catch. Sure, I might give up a pick or two, but it would be worth it to see Sanders be forced into making a tackle.
In his previous 14 seasons, he played all 16 regular season games just twice. His highest tackle total for a year was 44, and his lowest was last year when he totaled seven tackles in nine games. And he has exactly one sack for his career.
You would think that with that blazing speed, defensive coordinators would be sending him on the corner blitz on practically every play.
You would think that until you realized that sending Deion through or around offensive linemen would be like wearing a meat suit in shark-infested waters.
When I read the first shut down corner remark, I immediately started thinking of all the great defensive backs that have played in the NFL. Naturally, being a Raiders fan, the first two I thought of were Lester ‘The Interceptor’ Hayes and Mike Haynes.
Hayes was generally feared, and his cover skills were so good it pretty much led to a banning of stick-um. So, I did some research on the NFL’s record book for interceptions and wasn’t really surprised at what I found.
Out of 16 categories, Sanders was on there a whopping three times – with none as a statistical leader. Most interceptions in a season? Not on the list (but Lester Hayes was tied for second). Most seasons leading the league – nowhere to be found. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The only categories he showed up in were: Most yards gained in a season (second), most touchdowns career (tied for second), and most touchdowns in a season (tied with 17 others for second).
Does that sound like the first shut down corner in the NFL to you? Not to me. At least statistically, that honor should go to Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane or Rod Woodson. Both of those guys would stick you like glue and lay a hit on you like you stole their money.
And don’t even get me started on the two-sport mess. Speed was also the only thing he had going for him in baseball.
Compare him to a true two-sport star like Bo Jackson and you’ll find Sanders falls miles short.
My dislike for Deion probably goes back to the 1989 Sugar Bowl between Auburn and Florida State, when a pass interference penalty in the end zone wasn’t called on Peion and led to a Tiger loss.
But probably not. I just don’t like people calling him the greatest corner ever when he is fundamentally unsound.
He calls himself ‘Prime Time’. Mr. Webster says prime time is “hours when the largest audience is available”. Sanders definitely likes the spotlight, whether it’s warranted or not. But there is always the time when prime time slips into nighttime.
I think it’s about time for Sanders to “fade into Bolivian” as Mike Tyson once mumbled.
After all, when football is over for him, he can always fall back on the ‘Deion Sanders Hot Dog Xpress’.
(I’m not joking. Look it up. Pretty soon it’ll join Bo Jackson’s Famous Pumpkin Pie in a store near you.)