Aug. 8, 2011
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
|Follow me on Twitter|
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the greatest cover corner in the history of the National Football League, it was only fitting that Deion Sanders cloaked one last thing before officially entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past Saturday night.
As a culmination to what was a memorable and “oh-so-Deion” induction speech, Sanders ceremoniously placed his trademark do-rag on the top of his hall bust.
The crowd loved the gesture and sent the former FSU All-American off in style with a raucous round of applause. It was that final seal of approval from his audience that they appreciated yet another signature Sanders moment.
Sanders earned that trip to Canton, Ohio where he will forever be immortalized because of a career of those moments.
And it all started in Tallahassee with the creation of the “Primetime” persona.
“I recognized the defensive backs at that time didn’t get paid a lot [in the NFL],” Sanders said during his speech. “Cornerbacks, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs weren’t paid a lot. And in my dormitory room at Florida State, I created this image. This thing that you can imagine.
“You could love him or you could hate him, but he was Primetime.”
Coupled with his unique athletic ability, that image helped turn Sanders into a once-in-a-lifetime player.
While at FSU he who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as a senior in 1988. Sanders finished ninth nationally with five interceptions in nine games as a senior despite not being tested very often because of his big-play reputation.
Sanders is still tied for second on FSU’s career interception list with 14 and had three more in bowl games that did not count in career totals at the time. He had four career
interception returns for a touchdown that still remains tied with Terrell Buckley for the school record. Sanders was also one of the finest punt returners in NCAA history. He led the nation in punt returns as a senior averaging 15.2.
During his speech, Sanders talked about longtime Seminoles defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews and how he was molded by his college mentor.
“Mickey and Diane Andrews, my defensive back coach at Florida State,” Sanders said. “You taught me everything. I love you. The two things that you taught me, I could be two persons at the same time. You could yell at us, scream at us, by the time we get in the cafeteria, how’s the family, how’s everything going? You blessed me. Also, you made me what I am. You remember that drill that you had that you laid this mat out on the field, and the punter had to come and lay out and dive and try to block the punt? I don’t even dive in pools. I don’t even do that. But the guy before me, right before me, dove and the kicker kicked him and split his jaw wide open. And I said, Coach, I’ll go back there and return these punts.
“So I want to thank you for allowing me to be that punt returner.”
In addition to starring for Andrews’ defense, head football coach Bobby Bowden let Sanders use his talents in other venues for the ‘Noles.
A recipient of letters in baseball and track & field as well, Sanders earned All-American honors as a sprinter on the 4×100-meter relay team and played in the College World Series as an outfielder.
But it’s football that Sanders will forever be synonymous with. It’s the sport that he not only dominated but changed. He was the first defensive player to ever become an offensive threat because of the damage he could do to opponents following an interception.
He won two Super Bowls and was named the league’s defensive MVP. He high-stepped and endzone-danced into the households of millions.
“This game,” Sanders said. “This game taught me how to be a man. This game taught me if I get knocked down, I got to get my butt back up. I always had a rule in life that I would never love anything that couldn’t love me back. It taught me how to be a man, how to get up, how to live in pain. Taught me so much about people, timing, focus, dedication, submitting oneself, sacrificing.
“If your dream ain’t bigger than you, there’s a problem with your dream.”