Prime Time: The Best Corner That Ever Lived


They don’t 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, they’re going to come out.

-Deion Sanders

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Deion Sanders was one of a kind. He displayed the rare athleticism that is witnessed once every generation, possessed abounding energy and unparalleled speed, told anyone who would listen how good he was, and consistently executed feats that none of his peers in professional sports could accomplish. Sanders routinely made the impossible look easy. He played in the Pro Bowl eight times, was selected as first team All-Pro nine times, and won two Super Bowls over the course of his 14 year career. Deion Sanders maybe the best cornerback to ever play in the National Football League.

Sanders was made for sports, and his athleticism shone through even at the lower levels of competition. Though football is the sport that most of his recognition and accolades come from, Deion earned the nickname “Primetime” after he scored thirty points in a high school basketball game. His talent was not relegated solely to the gridiron. Consequently, he was selected to the All-State teams in basketball, football, and baseball as a high school athlete, and he took that success seamlessly into college athletics. Deion ran track, played baseball, and starred in football at Florida State University. He is the type of athlete that coaches dream of, combining size and speed with extreme coordination and technique. Deion reached and won the College World Series in just his second year as a Florida State outfielder, and performed even better on the football field becoming a 2-time All-American and winning the Jim Thorpe award, given to the best defensive back in the nation. Then,  ”Primetime” hit the big time.

Legend surrounds Deion Sanders’ NFL combine visit. Hotheaded and super-talented, Deion did not participate in the regular workouts. NFL executives pressured him into running the 40 yard dash and putting his first class speed on display. According to the myth of “Primetime”, he showed up late and only for the 40. Sanders, allegedly never took off his sweatpants, ran a 4.17 which rivals Olympic track speed, and ran right out of the stadium, never stopping to talk to the coaches. This was before the 40 yard dash times were timed electronically, but there is no way he ran slower than a 4.3, an exceptional showing. Jimmy Johnson, a former coach of Deion said that he was the only player he’d seen that was faster than the ball, meaning that he could outrun the football midflight. He was so fast, that coaches, including Johnson couldn’t use him only on defense. Sanders became one of the last ironmen of football, playing both offense and defense (he played special teams too). The lore of Sanders gets more believable when you hear stories from QB’s like former teammate Troy Aikman, a Hall of Famer. On a fly route, where the receiver runs straight down the field as fast as he can, Aikman saw Deion open and tried to get him the ball. The ball slipped from his hands and he knew that overthrew Deion by a country mile. Deion was so mind-bogglingly fast moving downfield that he actually had to stop his route short and come back to the ball. On at least one occasion, he truly was faster than the ball.

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However, the offensive side of the football was not where Deion Sanders erected his legend in the National Football League. Sanders earned his reputation by anchoring the defensive backs units of his teams’ secondary and scoring touchdowns on special teams. He defined the term “shutdown corner” and the role of kickoff and punt returner during the nineties. The casual football fan thinks of Sanders as purely an athletic freak - because he was incredibly quick out of cuts with blinding speed in open space – and he may be the most physically talented defensive back that ever played the game, however he was extremely technically sound at cornerback too. He backpedaled as well as some receivers could run, he kept his hips low to give him power through quick turnouts, and always played perfect inside or outside technique depending on the route that the receiver ran. Sanders was surprisingly physical on defense even though his detractors considered him more of a finesse player because of his reluctance to make and take big hits. At 6’1″ and 195 lbs., he was significantly larger than the average cornerback in the NFL today (the average NFL cornerback is 5’11″ and 193.4 lbs.). He was able to press receivers, jamming them at the line to disrupt the timing of their routes or play off the ball and use his closing speed to defend passes. He could effectively cover receivers positioned wide out or he could smother the guy in the slot, but he was best in open space where he could break on the football to make plays. In his prime, quarterbacks refused to throw the football to his side of the football field because Sanders was so explosive that he could leave the man that he was guarding and knock down or intercept balls thrown to other receivers. Wide receivers could not catch the ball with Deion guarding them. His pure athleticism allowed Sanders to bait quarterbacks into errant throws so that he could get easy interceptions. And, when Deion got his hands on the ball he immediately became a weapon. Deion Sanders is one of two players to score a touchdown 6 ways. He has scored on kickoff returns, punt returns, interception returns, off a fumble recovery, receiving the football, and rushing with the football. For the first half of his career, Deion was the most dangerous return man in the league. Teams regularly kicked the ball out of bounds or squib kicked it to keep it out of the hands of Primetime. He had uncanny speed and vision in the open field and he scored whenever he got the football.

Deion Sanders could possibly be the best athlete that ever played professionally, and he used his physical gifts to take him to unparalleled heights in sports. He amazed people at every level of athletics and he dominated the sport of football. Primetime was the most dangerous and exciting corner to ever play football and he earned his nickname with unmatched straight-line closing speed, quickness changing directions, and the vision to score every time he touched the football. Deion Sanders is the best corner that ever lived.


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