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Newly inducted Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is friends, former rivals and former teammates with Michael Irvin, who just a few years ago gave the best enshrinement speech Canton's ever seen. Deion took it upon himself to make sure his name gets mentioned just after Irvin's and Shannon Sharpe's whenever people list these things (oh man, people list these things don't they), drawing on his extensive (you'll see just how extensive!) network of clerical influences to create an anagrammed sermon on the topic of Deion Sanders.
Here's the video, via Black Sports Online (you have many thank-yous to get through first):
I keep saying it: Deion is my favorite athlete ever, and I'm proud that he's the first Falcons player in the Hall.
But do you believe he bought all those gold chains solely for the cause of paying his mother's bills? Think about what a leap that is. A lot of people have done the math and found that it adds up, and that just goes to show how good Deion is at this stuff.
His mother drove him to succeed. That certainly makes sense, is admirable and should be appreciated. But to cast every act he's taken since Tallahassee as singularly focused on his mother is a sneaky way of revising history, of providing a twist ending. He was doing it for good the whole time, you guys.
Sanders always tells his own story. Saturday night, he didn't just turn face, to borrow a pro rasslin' term. This time he chose a turn that would re-cast his entire life and public image.
It's not that I'm not buying it. That's kind of not even my point. Like the best parts of the Bible, it's not about whether you take them literally, but about whether you can invest in the spirit of the story. Of course a Deion Sanders speech about Deion Sanders gets Biblical.
You can't deny the truth behind his message, even if it's overinflated. It's more that I'm once again appreciating how in charge Deion is of what people think of him and amazed that a man who's been famous for decades can elect to be thought of differently henceforth and simply make it happen with one speech.
He's good at this, y'all.
Deion Sanders, one of the best players in Atlanta Falcons history, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night. Before induction speeches began, he told his NFL Network cohorts he planned on going out there and wingin' it, saying that if he'd written anything beforehand, his speech would get long-winded due to the wide assortment of teams he had to thank.
Thought about coming up with a Deion Sanders Hall of Fame induction speech drinking game (sip per mention of "God" or "money," sip per third-person self reference, finish drink for each reference of any early-1990s Falcons players, get up and dance while finishing drink for each dance). Didn't do it. Did, however, attempt to transcribe the entire thing for your records. It's a far from perfect write-up, but we all fall short in life.
Here is that (it starts with a long list of thank-yous, but gets going eventually):
Lord, I thank you. Jesus, I love you. If it wasn't for God, I wouldn't be here today.
The Hall of Fame staff. Canton, Ohio. That was a wonderful parade, although I thought we was headed for Cleveland.
Oftentimes when we have public success, we have private struggles.
[Thanks list of coaches.]
Coach Ron Hoover for kicking me off my high school team even though I was the starting quarterback. That taught me a lot, even though I wasn't being insubordinate in that cafeteria. I don't know what that lady was talking about.
[More coaches, including Bobby Bowden.]
Mickey and Diane Andrews. My DB coach at Florida State. You taught me everything. You taught me I could be two persons at the same time. You yelled at us, then, "How's the family?"
You made me the punt returner that I am. You had this drill where everybody had to lie out to try to block a punt. I don't even dive in pools. The guy before me dove, and the kicker kicked his jaw wide open. I said, "Coach, I'll go return the punt."
Jamie Dukes, my brother, Andre Rison. Corey Fuller who allowed me to come back and play for the Ravens. Jason Phillips, who's an offensive coordinator now. We went at it when he was on the scout team in Atlanta. He went after my butt.
The Snoop D O double-G. Cube. I been loving you since the early-90s. [This is the rapper section.]
[Thanks some business guys, which included Nate Newton. This is so complicated.]
Sponsors. Under Armour. You see a bunch of kids out here with Truth on.
My family. Auntie Scootie [I think!] That carphone that you got me when I was in college.
[More family. Aunts and uncles now. Now cousins. Grandma, a "prayer warrior."]
Atlanta Falcons. Taylor and Rankin Smith. Coaches. Glanville, June Jones. [Equipment managers and so forth.] The new regime. I had a wonderful meeting today with one of the most beautiful owners that I wish I'd played for. Thank you, Arthur Blank. [More current Falcons personnel, including Thomas Dimitroff and Rich McKay.]
Washington Redskins. Daniel Snyder. [Off on another list. A list for the Ravens too, which includes Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick.]
I love me some Rex Ryan. [On to equipment managers. Deion must have like one billion Google Plus friends.]
Do you understand this is the Hall of Fame? I grew up on some of you guys. I couldn't wait to get a glimpse of that TV. To play against the Marinos and Montanas. Troy Aikman. Emmitt Smith, Mike Irvin, are you kidding me? Jerry Rice? Steve Young? Andre Rison, Jamie Dukes, Scott Case. The best secondary ever assembled, Merton Hanks [and those other Niners players.]
This game taught me there's some things in life you can't do prematurely. In football they call it offsides. In life it's just life.
Through this game I've lost some people, but I've gained five beautiful kids. [Lists kids.] My beautiful wife Pilar, who's sacrificed and put her dreams on hold to make sure I achieve mine. Thank you, for all you put up with. I know I'm not easy to deal with.
This game. I appreciate it so much because I thuoght about it as a child. They told me we would get paid for a game that I always love? I hear so many people say they'd do it for free. I would too as long as you're doing it for free.
This game means so much to me. I would never love nothing that couldn't love me back. I like this game, it taught me how to live with pain. Taught me so much about people, about timing, about focus and dedication. Submitting oneself and sacrifices.
I attacked this game because I made a promise that I needed this game to fulfill, when I was seven years old to this young woman aged 27. She was working two jobs to make ends meet. She was slaving over pots and pans. It was a little high chair right by this stove. I said, "Mama," cause I was tired of seeing her come home all tired.
I said, "Mama, I'm gonna make a lot of money and you're never gonna work another day of your life." She said, "That's fine, but get that lawnmower and cut that grass."
Fourteen years later. You can't give up on that dream and that promise. Fourteen years later this dream came. I was able to allow my mama to say, "I'm not doing it anymore." I never told you, Mama, I played for a youth team called the Fort Myers Rebels. Everybody on that team, their parents were doctors of chiefs of police. Me and my friend were the only African-American kids on that team. I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school.
One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don't care what it takes, I'm not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.
And I recognized defensive backs, at that time, didn't get paid a lot. QBs, RBs, LBs did. In my dorm at Florida State, I created this image. This thing you could imagine.
You could love him or hate him, but he was Prime Time. I would rehearse quotes and sayings. I knew I had the substance, the goods, the work ethic, but I needed to secure myself enough that my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.
The problem is with some dreams, the dreams are only about you. If you're dream ain't bigger than you, there's a problem with your dream. Throughout my career, I understood there were gonna be stones. When you making a difference, it's gonna be haters.
When you provoke change, it's gonna be naysayers. Some of the stuff I tried to do, they'd never seen. When you talked about me, media, guess what? Behind you, I saw my Mama. When you criticized me, I saw right through your papers and I saw my Mama. You told me what I couldn't do, didn't do, would never be, I saw my Mama pushing that cart.
When you told me I was too small, wasn't educated enough, I saw my Mama because I made a promise. You have to maintain that responsibility to that promise. That's why I love this game.
You had to make that throw, Troy, when Mike came off that cut. Emmitt, you had to made that block. Jerry Rice, you had to catch that ball.
You think these guys sitting here flanked on my right and left didn't have the intelligence? I'm talking about the knowledge of life. I had a promise, a responsibility, somewhat of an intelligence ... I had to manage all these things.
There's no class that told us how to manage ourselves, millions, and our time. Ultimately, people around us are on a payroll. They tell you what you want to hear. Thank you, Eugene, for being you.
Now I'm managing things. The last thing that I have is expectation. What separates us from some of you kids is that we expect to be great. I heard some Hall of Famers say I never dreamt of this. I'm sorry, I did. I expect to be great, to do what hadn't been done, to provoke change, to walk into a room and it's 72 degrees, to make it 70.
Thank God I went to five teams, because I had to prove myself over and over again. People start expecting. On my shoes, it says You Gotta Believe. I have a problem if you don't believe in yourself, how will somebody else believe in you?
Let me back up a minute. I gave you a promise, the responsibility, the intellect, the management, the expectation. I don't know if you figured it out, but I just gave you Prime. [At least three players tonight came up with anagrams.] I just gave you the formula in who is really standing before you.
I was trick or treating and it wasn't even Halloween. All the things you really thought I was, some of the things you didn't like, didn't want to accept, I was doing it for my Mama.
I leave you with this. Many of my naysayers said Prime didn't tackle. I want to respond to that. Because it bothers me. Insinuating that I'm soft. I got kids. Since 1989, I've tackled every bill my Mama has ever given me. Hadn't missed one. Next time they say Prime didn't tackle, make sure you let 'em know, yes he did.
Hall of Famers, I am so privileged and thankful to be among you. You don't understand how ... I didn't understand until I got here. Until I heard you articulate yourselves. I heard the struggles and trials. I made a new friend. His name is Chris Hanburger. Chris, I love you man. You're a good dude.
NFL Network [on ESPN, LOL], thank you for letting me be me. Ladies and gentlemen, I came here with seven buses full of kids, all ethnicities and social statuses. I trick these kids by using sports to educate them. I'm trying to open a charter school.
What are we doing with this platform? Are we just walking around with these gold jackets? Let's provoke change. Truth family, I love you. We are raising your kids to be CEOs, not employees, leaders, not followers.
Thank you for your love and passion that you have for me. Because I love it.
I don't know what's going on in other tents, but Snoop, Cube, Nelly, we bout to go tear this thing up.
I got one final thing. I like him, but something's missing.
Thank you and God bless.
A few weeks before his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, former Atlanta Falcons great Deion Sanders said his bronze bust would pay homage to his early years by way of its hairstyle, which happened to be played in Atlanta. A man as image-conscious as Sanders couldn't possibly pass up a chance to see his youthful Jheri curl cast in metal and preserved forever, but it makes for a nice little wink to the city of Atlanta while we're at it.
NFL Hall of Famers don't get to pick which team they're inducted as, but this might be one of very few cases in which a player can be claimed by a particular team based on hairstyle alone. Here's a quick photo of bronze Deion as unveiled next to gold-jacketed and -shoed Deion:
Update: After his speech, he put a bandana on it (via @bubbaprog):
If I didn't know that was supposed to look like Deion Sanders, I probably wouldn't have been able to guess who it represents. We all try our hardest.
The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame class includes three players of particular local interest: Atlanta Falcons star Deion Sanders, Atlanta native Richard Dent of the Bears and Shannon Sharpe of the Broncos and Ravens, who grew up in south Georgia's Tattnall County and played at Savannah State, where he was one of the best players in SIAC history.
Sharpe looked ready to cry before even taking the podium, and had already spoken through a cracking voice while being interviewed before the event even began. He made it through his speech without breaking, and it will likely go down as the highlight of the night.
Transcribing an emotional Shannon Sharpe literally sounds like the hardest typing-related activity that could ever possibly be undertaken. I gave it my best shot, and here is that, including a shout out to his eventual Super Bowl opponent Dan Reeves. It's not perfect, but it's your best option for right now:
Thank you everyone. The people from the Hall tell me I only have eight to 10 minutes to do this. No chance.
First, I'd like to thank the 44 men and women that deemed my play on the field worthy of this honor. Also the city of Canton and the Hall itself. Your efforts are appreciated.
I keep telling myself I'm not going to get emotional. I know that's going to happen. I'm proud and excited where my NFL journey has taken me and my family. 2121 George Halas Drive, Canton, Ohio.
I'm humbled to be joining such an elite fraternity. I want to congratulate my fellow inductees and recognize the elite seven -- the tight ends who've already been enshrined.
We lost one of our members early last month: John Mackey. My prayers go out to the Mackey family.
All these years later, nothing makes me prouder than when people call me a self-made man. I had a persona as a player: I liked to talk. It's a trait I picked up from my mom and brother. A reporter once told me he could hear the tape recorder smiling when I got on a roll. Don't let the persona overshadow the person. The person knew when it was time to get to work.
People asked me how a person from Glennville, Georgia who went to Savannah State could win three Super Bowls. It's the three D's: dedication, determination and discipline. Don't hope someone gives you an opportunity. Create one for yourself. When I left for Savannah State with two brown grocery bags filled with my belongings, nothing was going to keep me from my dreams. You may not know this: I was never supposed to be a Hall of Famer or a tight end.
I'm here today for a lot of reasons. Some have nothing to do with me and everything to do with the patience of people.
[Thanks high school remedial reading teacher, jokes about remedial reading class.]
William Hall. My high school football coach, track coach and driver's ed teacher. Coach Hall's been coaching for 50-plus years, and he's still coaching. He drives 65 miles one way to get to school. Thanks, coach Hall, for all your wisdom, guidance, understanding that you've given me over those years. Hopefully all those miles seem worth it today.
These people have something in common. They believed in me, and so did my first NFL coach Dan Reeves, who somehow forgot to cut me. Our last preseason game my rookie year, we played the Cardinals. One of the coaches told me my name was on the board to be cut. He said, "If you play, play really hard so you'll have something on tape so someone else can say, 'this guy can play.'"
It started to rain, so I knew we wouldn't throw the ball. I played on special teams and got 20 offensive plays. Had 12 knockdown blocks. I was cutting everything that moved. My name was off the board. I made it.
I'd also like to thank Wade Phillips, our defensive coordinator at the time. He said, "Dan, let's put him in the game. We can't cover him."
[Thanks coaches, coordinators, owners and fans.]
To all my former teammates at Glennville High, Savannah State, Denver and Baltimore, hopefully you enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed you. Of course, there's my great friend John Elway. His place in these halls tells you what kind of player he was. I want to tell you what kind of man he is.
Not only did he embrace me, he chose me as his go-to guy. They put me in motion the entire game. As I motioned past John, he'd tell me what I had to do.
"Block the end. Block the linebacker. Run an out."
We won the game. Instead of being angry with me, he said, "I think next week we need to learn the plays."
I know I wouldn't be here without my family. [Thanks three children, mother.]
I was the first kid in Glennville to have a Mickey Mouse watch, Air Jordans and a Walkman. Whatever I asked for, I got. Sterling and I forgive you for those all-white suits you bought for Easter that made us look like John Travolta.
To my brother Sterling: I'm the only player that's walked through this building that can say he's the second-best player in his own family.
[Long applause for a teary Sterling Sharpe.]
Had fate dealt you a different hand, we would've been the first brothers to be elected to the Hall of Fame. All I do is ask in the humblest way I know: the next time you go in that room, look at Sterling Sharpe's accomplishments for a seven-year period. That's all I ask. Think about Sterling Sharpe's numbers for seven years.
Sterling, you're my hero, father figure and my role model. You taught me everything I know about life. I never lived in your shadow -- I embraced it. [Thanks sister Libby.]
Last but not least, I think this is where I get emotional. My Granny. The guy that did this bust went to school for that. He's trained to bring clay to life. It's my turn to bring Mary Porter to life with my voice. It's time for me to give Mary Porter a face for all those that don't know who she is.
What do you say about a person that gave you everything but life? How do you say thank you, Granny, for a woman that raises nine of her kids and your mom's three? My grandmother was a simple woman. She wanted to go to church every Sunday. Be in Bible study every Wednesday. The other days she wanted to be on a fishing creek. It was my brother's and my job to make sure she could do that.
My only regret: I never told my grandmother how much she meant to me. I wanted to be so much like my brother that, when I went to college, my first college girlfriend looked exactly like his.
I remember getting ready to go to college. My grandmother never got out of bed when I was getting ready to leave for school -- she never told me not to drink, to go to class. She had laid that foundation for 18 years. A 10-minute speech wasn't going to work now.
One of my best friends is Michael Irvin. As I talk to him ... they say you don't know a man's pain unless you walk a mile in his shoes. You'd need to walk 20 years. [Rapid, tumbling, poetic description of living in poverty in a cinderblock house in Glennville, Georgia, which drove him to be successful. It was kind of amazing and I just stopped typing.]
I didn't want my kids to live one hour in the life that I had, let alone a day. I missed recitals and graduations because I was so obsessed with being the best player I could possibly be. I ruined a lot of relationships. I'm not here to apologize. It got them to a life they never would've enjoyed had it not been for that.
My position coach once asked me why I work so hard. "You're not eating. You're in the gym. You study harder, you practice harder, you have more fun." I said, you don't know what it's like to eat raccoon, opossum, squirrel and turtle. I'm not gonna have to eat that when I become an adult.
When I was 12 years old, I told my mom I'd buy her a Mercedes, and I did. When I asked my grandmother, she said she didn't want a car or jewelry. She said she wanted a decent home. Knowing her, I said, "What is a decent home?"
I remember it like yesterday. She said, "I want to go to bed one night, and I want God to let it rain as hard as he can, and I want it to rain all night long and I want to wake up and not be wet."
I remember those days of putting Kroger sacks on the bed so they wouldn't get wet. Putting pots and pans on the floor to catch the rain. All she wanted was a house that wouldn't leak. From two boys that's making millions. That's what drove Shannon. That's what got me here.
My sister called me and said, "Shannon, she's gone." I'm driving and I've got my headphones on. Trying to gather what I'm gonna say when I see my grandmother in that casket.
When my grandfather died, I missed one day of school: the day of the funeral. My grandmother didn't believe in that. As my grandmother was laying in that casket, I walked over to her and I asked her two things.
I said, "Granny, am I the man you thought I would be when you got on the train to Chicago and came to get me at three months." I could see her smiling. Then I asked her, "Are you proud of your baby?"
I know my grandmother's proud. I know my family's proud.
This day means so much to me because I get to share it with that guy right there. [Points at Shannon.] You'll never know. When you put that jacket on me, there's two people in this world knew what we felt. We felt it at the same time. I'm so honored to be a part of this. Deacon Jones once said that everybody in this room could catch everybody that's in this room.
Thank you for allowing me to share 14 minutes and 23 seconds of your time.
Deion Sanders isn't the only player with Georgia connections being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 2011 class. Chicago Bears DE Richard Dent is a native Atlantan who played at Murphy High before going on to Tennessee State. Saturday night during his induction speech, he made several mentions of Georgia and looking up to Falcons greats Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis.
Here's a quick transcript of Dent's speech (I missed some of his personal thank yous to non-famous people, but got most of it!):
Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know, I grew up in a town where a man said, "I have a dream." And that man was Martin Luther King. And as a kid, growing up, all I could do was dream.
I wanted to be someone special that my family could look up to. I wanted to be someone that I enjoyed, playing the game. I enjoyed working and taking care of myself and my siblings. [Joke about having to share with so many siblings.] My dad would tell me, "A burger is only gonna last for a second."
Richard Dent went to work and tried to find himself. Never in my wildest dream did I think I would wind up here. It's all about other people. None of us can get anywhere by ourselves. I had a friend named Scott Dean who gave up the band to help me pursue my dream. I had a young lady by the name of Miss Payton who used to let me hang out in her store and gave me a job since she knew I was taking things. She gave me something to look forward to.
There's another lady by the name of Miss Knight. You took care of my mother, ironed clothes, raised people in my community. I appreciate your love, Miss Knight, and I appreciate you coming here to celebrate this with us.
Also, a guy by the name of William Lester. I know that he wanted to leave the state of Georgia. When I grew up, I used to watch Claude Humphrey, Tommy Nobis, Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali. I didn't know I was gonna go to Tennessee State, but Claude was vicious. I took a little piece of Claude and Muhammad Ali and said, "I'm gonna go raise some hell."
Coach Lester dropped me off at Tennessee State. Before you know it, I was working at Sunbeam Bread and doing summer school. That was important to me that I'd actually moved out of the neighborhood. Coach Lester drove me, two years in a row. I didn't want to transfer. I came in the game late. William Lester, he died a few years ago, but if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here and I'd never have gotten to Chicago.
Being the first guy out of Atlanta public schools into the Hall of Fame, I just couldn't believe out of 100 and something years that one could do such a thing. But that's what took place.
I love my Tennessee State people. You shape me. I appreciate the band coming out. There was nothing like going to Big Blue. All the guys that I played with there. I appreciate you guys coming out. [Lists Tennessee State football coach Joe Gilliam's many achievements over the past many decades.]
There's two other guys that I should say I stand on their shoulders. That's Claude Humphrey and "Too Tall" Jones. There wouldn't be no me without you.
I'd like that '85 team to stand up. I know we got that 1985 Chicago team. Stand up. [Thanks list of Bears players.] Steve McMichael, I hope to see you up here sometime. Most important of all, was a guy named Jimbo Covert. Me and Jimbo, we pushed each other. Walter was great for a long time. [Thanks position coaches and strength coaches.]
When I came in the league, I was 220 pounds with bad teeth. [Story about correcting said issues.]
I'd love to thank the Chicago fans and the people in Chicago. That's where the game started. Not a better place to play. It means to much to play where Walter Payton and Dick Butkus played. Thank the 49ers, Eagles and Colts also for giving me a chance to play with those folks.
Dad, I know you're sitting there. Thank you, Dad. You taught me some things about hard work. I used to buff a lot of floors with you. I'm just glad that you didn't allow me to go to jail with you that day when we went fishing and you didn't have a license. Guy told you to follow him and we went another route. Who knows what would've happened in Covington, Georgia.
I'm a mama's boy. I wish my mother was here. [Thanks brothers and sisters.] You guys had that band in the '60s. Everybody wanted to be the next Michael Jackson. It didn't happen.
My two daughters and my son, I love you to death. You guys got this legacy. Look forward to you guys taking on the Make A Dent Foundation.
I tell kids, when you think of me, think of the first letter in my name. D is Dream. When you dream, you have to get up and do something about it. The letter E: you have to be educated. The letter N: you represent your name, your team, where you came from. The letter T is: when you get knocked down, you gotta get back up and try again.
I took those four letters and I was destined to make something of myself that my community, friends and loved ones could appreciate.
[Thanks friends and family who've passed away, including former Falcons and Georgia Tech WR Drew Hill and Walter Payton. Thanks HOF class.]
It's time to drop it like it's hot. [Some more thank yous.]
On August 6, Deion Sanders becomes the first-ever long-time Falcons player to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though the NFL's hall doesn't ask players to choose one team to rep, he's made it clear Georgia's still on his mind.
The 2011 Pro Football Enshrinement Ceremony is set for 7 pm ET on NFL Network and ESPN. There's also a bunch of other stuff going on. Deion Sanders headlines the induction class, becoming the first actual Atlanta Falcons player to make Canton. Expect him to be one of the final two on stage. He's joined by Marshall Faulk, native Atlantan Richard Dent, former Savannah State star Shannon Sharpe (five times fast!) and others.
As far as radio goes, ESPN Radio says they'll turn their attention to the HOF once the Yankees-Red Sox game ends. They said it, not me.
All things being equal, NFL Network is your preferred accompaniment for the day. For one thing, comparing Rich Eisen to Chris Berman or whoever ESPN trots out is like comparing the Pro Football Hall of Fame to a hallway, but it's also worth noting the NFL warmly acknowledges Deion's Falcons history while ESPN just thinks of him as COWBOYS RED SOX LEBRON JAMES JERRY JONES IS FAMOUS.
The day's surprisingly extensive TV schedule leading up to the ceremony itself. All times ET:
Top 10 Players Not in the Hall of Fame, 10 am, NFL Network: In honor of the first-ever actual Falcons inductee, this list really ought to include Claude Humphrey and Tommy Nobis. It really ought to regardless of who's being inducted this year. Looking forward to discovering which 1975 Steelers players have been most tragically overlooked #smh.
Deion Sanders: Canton Goes Primetime, 3 pm, NFL Network: They're doing hour-long specials on a few of the bigger names, concluding with Deion. You can look at that schedule here. This one first aired Thursday night, and it is excellent. I've mentioned this three times now, but it includes Andre Rison impersonating James Brown. You're sold.
2011 Hall of Fame Pre-enshrinement Ceremony, 4, pm, NFL Network: I have no idea.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn't ask inductees to choose a team for their busts to be associated with, the way other halls of fame do. Good news for Deion Sanders, who'd have a lot of tough choices to make in whittling down the list of teams he played for. However, he's found a way to show that his heart is still in the right place.
In an interview with 680 The Fan's Rude Awakening, Sanders promised a bust with a hairstyle similar to the one he had in Atlanta:
With all the great Falcons and the great players that played this game in those Atlanta Falcons uniforms it really is [surprising to be the team's first inductee], and I'm thankful.
I'm reminded by Taylor Smith, the former owner, who once told after he let go of me in free agency with a smile on his face ‘If it [Hall of Fame induction] ever happens please remember us. Just remember us.'
I said ‘I will. I definitely will.' I never forgot.
This is the genesis of my career. This is where it all started. I would never lose sight of that. I never wanted to leave, but I had to leave. I was never offered a contract. I'm happy that I am back and I am elated. The bust is going to have curls because you make the bust the way you wanted, so I'm going to have hair. The hair clip for me and they didn't make black hair like I wanted. I'm going to get my hair on the bust that they have for the Hall of Fame, so I will have hair.
Deion is my favorite player ever, in case I need to keep saying that.
Of course Deion Sanders is being introduced at the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony by his agent. He could've had Jerry Jones or Jerry Glanville or Bobby Bowden or Michael Irvin do the honors, but, really, would anything be more Prime Time than letting it be the man second-most responsible for Sanders' bank account?
Kind of would've liked to have seen Arthur Blank get the chance, even though Sanders never played for a Blank team. But no player is going to be walked out by a more fitting presenter, that's for sure.
The 2011 ceremony is just a couple weeks away. Sanders will be the first long-time Falcons player to ever be inducted into Canton.
Something like half the cities in America could claim Deion Sanders, but which does Deion himself claim? While the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn't identify inductees with one specific team at the exclusion of other teams they played for, some Atlanta Falcons fans have still wondered just how prominently Sanders' time in Atlanta will be featured once he's officially enshrined.
Considering he's sent a Falcons helmet and game ball to the hall, it's safe to say Deion wants to be remembered as a Falcon. He may also end up sending some Cowboys mementos, but keep in mind he told a national audience after he'd been inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor that he thinks of Atlanta as "home."
This shouldn't be a contest between two fanbases, but for those of us who first fell in love with sports when Deion was the best player on the Falcons roster in at least 15 years, gestures like this one are much appreciated.
Deion Sanders, the first player drafted by the Atlanta Falcons to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (announced last night, to be inducted in August) performed the coin flip honors at Super Bowl XLV. All the members of the 2011 class got to stand at midfield, but only the man with the pinkest shirt can be entrusted with the coin.
Sanders made 49 percent of his NFL name as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, so for him to get to do the honors in already-collapsing, not-big-enough Cowboys Stadium has got to be a pretty exciting honor.
He was given the nod over Marshall Faulk, one of the best players ever, and Ed Sabol, the man responsible for NFL Films and thus much of the NFL’s branding dominance. Also Shannon Sharpe and some others, but this was likely a three-man race.
Sanders will never turn down a chance to handle money, and his experience with the substance showed. Allegations of an NFC conspiracy are unfounded, though the Packers did win the toss.
Complete Super Bowl XLV pregame coverage at HQ, including word on who will be the designated honoree coin flipper as soon as the information works its way out. If it does, at least. But one thing we do know is former Atlanta Falcons CB Deion Sanders will be at midfield for the coin flip.
All of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees will be, in fact. Last year Emmitt Smith did the actual, physical task of coin-flipping, though in this year’s class there isn’t a clear standout.
Both Sanders and MarshallFaulk are among the best players ever at their positions, but I’d bet on Ed Sabol’s son doing the honors, if Sabol himself can’t make it out. The league knows it delayed Sabol’s induction just a little bit too long, as he’s been as big a part of the NFL’s success as anybody.
Besides, if Prime Time gets a hold of that big, silver coin, nobody’s getting it back, am I right? /sings “Must Be the Money”
Deion Sanders was officially announced as a member of the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class Saturday night on NFL Network. He joins Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter as newest members in Canton, Ohio. The induction ceremony will take place in August.
Sanders was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons fifth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft and played five seasons in the Georgia Dome before moving on to San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and finally Baltimore. Though Sanders played only five of 13 NFL seasons in Atlanta, he scored 10 touchdowns and forced 31 turnovers as a member of the Falcons. Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time First-Team All-Pro. You can check out his career stats here.
One prerequisite I think is important for induction into the Hall of Fame is the player must have been the best at his position at least once in his career. I'm not fond of guys who compile stats over a long career and are never considered the best at their position. Though Sanders is a no-brainer, let's back it up with some research.
Since deciding who the best player at a position can be arguable, we'll use the Approximate Value (AV) ratings from Pro-Football-Reference. Using those rankings, Sanders was the best cornerback in the NFL twice; once in 1996 and again in 1998 as a member of the Cowboys.
Furthermore, he finished in the top four among corners in nine of his 14 seasons. His best season as a Falcon was 1993 when he intercepted a career-high seven passes. Sanders retired after the 2000 season but returned to play two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 and 2005. Among cornerbacks from 1989 to 2000, only Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler Rod Woodson had a better AV than Sanders did.
For Chris Doleman, who spent two seasons with the Falcons, the third time wasn't the charm. He's been a finalist three times now but has not received enough votes to earn induction. Doleman was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro and he arrived in Atlanta the year after Sanders departed for the 49ers. His best season as a Falcons player was in 1995 when he had nine sacks and 51 tackles.
Similar to Sanders, Doleman was among the top six defensive ends in nine of his 15 seasons and was the best DE in 1992 (making him eligible in my book). From 1987 to 1999, Doleman was the third-best defensive end in the league behind only Hall of Fame members Reggie White and Bruce Smith.
For more on this year's other finalists and inductees, visit the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame StoryStream at SB Nation's NFL hub.
Deion Sanders, already a member of the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor, will be announced shortly as a member of the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame class that will be inducted in August. Though he won't technically be the first player to play for the Falcons who makes it in, he's the first who wouldn't have made it in without the the seasons he played for Atlanta.
And while career stats don't really tell the whole story when it comes to defensive backs, Sanders still has an impressive list of numbers. His 53 interceptions rank No. 23 all-time, and he's No. 4 all-time in interception return yardage and touchdowns. His returns on kicks, punts, and interceptions make him the NFL's all-time leader in career non-offensive touchdowns with 19, and he also added three as a part-time wide receiver.
Sanders was named an eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro, and one-time AP Defensive Player of the Year.
For more on this year's other finalists and inductees, visit the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame StoryStream at SB Nation's NFL hub.
|Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees will be announced (not inducted!) tonight at 7 pm EST on NFL Network. Between four and seven inductees will be announced tonight, then officially join the Hall in August. Here are all of this year’s finalists:
Who’s going to make it in?
Jerome Bettis: There’s the “If Jerome Bettis is a Hall of Famer, then so is Corey Dillon” camp, and then there’s the “RINGS” camp. Bettis had an amazing career, but he’s the least-deserving of this year’s sure things and likely this year’s least-deserving inductee.
Marshall Faulk: Automatic, and deserved.
Deion Sanders: Same.
Who’ll probably make it in?
Tim Brown: The second-greatest wide receiver of the previous era does not have anywhere near the ongoing TV presence of his primary Hall of Fame rival, Cris Carter. It would be a surprise to see both of them make it in, especially with two running backs guaranteed to go in, which would create a skill position overload that even Hall of Fame voters should be uncomfortable with.
Cris Carter: Carter deserves to be in the Hall, but not at the expense of Brown. Carter was never dominant — he was very good for a long time, and if that’s our standard, Willie Roaf must be inducted long before Carter.
Willie Roaf: The second- or third-biggest no-brainer on the entire list, but he played offensive line. An 11-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro despite playing most of his career for the New Orleans Saints ( and that’s before the Saints got media love, mind you), Roaf deserves to be a first-balloter.
Also Dermontti Dawson, Chris Hanburger, Curtis Martin, and Shannon Sharpe.
Who’s got a decent shot?
Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, and Ed Sabol.
Who are the longshots?
Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, and Les Richter.
Atlanta Falcons CB Deion Sanders is sure to become a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in the 2011 class, which will be announced Feb. 5 at 6 pm ET. Voting takes place Feb. 2 — I’m wondering whether voters are going to find enough Hall of Fame material in Chris Doleman, another (brief) Falcon.
For your reference, here are the 15 finalists up for voting this time around. As you can see, this could be a crowded field, with Sanders, Jerome Bettis, and Marshall Faulk all but certain to make it in, plus the very deserving Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf.
Though Doleman has been waiting a long time, I wouldn’t bet on him making it this time around. The Pro Football Reference community thinks differently, voting that Doleman will deservedly make it in as a part of the 2011 class.
Doleman would become, after Sanders, the second-most Falconly member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so here’s hoping he can collect enough votes.
Two former Atlanta Falcons — Deion Sanders and Chris Doleman — are up for the final round of cuts in the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process. Doleman has been on the ballot before, while this is Sanders’ first appearance.
Sanders is an all-but lock to make it in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, having made the upper half of NFL Network’s top-100 countdown. Sanders will become the first player to make the Hall of Fame who played a significant portion of his career with the Falcons.
Doleman will have a tougher time of making it in. He has the numbers, with 150.5 career sacks, seven Pro Bowls, and 10 playoff appearances, but lacked a run with a dominant team or whatever. He did make one Pro Bowl in his two years with the Falcons, but his time here is not exactly viewed as the high mark of his career. Though we still have more reason to claim Doleman than we do Eric Dickerson.
Thursday night at halftime of their game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons welcomed Deion Sanders into the team’s Ring of Honor. Owner Arthur Blank said some stuff, then a highlights video of Sanders’ Falcons career got the crowd going. You can tell plenty of people haven’t seen some of these highlights in years, maybe even decades. Sanders took the stage to say a few words, going for the Al Sharpton rhyme right away: “I wouldn’t be Prime … if you didn’t give me the time.”
Video of the whole thing, momentarily interrupted by tall hair bro and tall hair lady:
He says again here what he repeated on the NFL Network after the game — that of all the cities he played in, Atlanta was the only one he’d call home. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame isn’t like baseball’s in requiring each player to pick a team to rep, everything the Falcons can do to keep establishing themselves as Deion’s team will result in win when he’s inducted into the Hall next August.
In what’s sure to be a somewhat controversial move, the Atlanta Falcons have decided to induct early ‘90s meteor CB Deion Sanders into their tight-knit Ring of Honor. Sanders has almost nothing in common with the personas and tenure of the ring’s other members — Tommy Nobis, Jessie Tuggle, Steve Bartkowski, Mike Kenn, Claude Humphrey, William Andrews, and Jeff Van Note all played almost their entire careers in Atlanta, while Sanders only played five of his 13 seasons here.
So why honor a player who once raced down the sidelines as a 49er, staring down the Falcons sideline and highstepping about thirty miles into the Georgia Dome end zone?
First, because he’s the best football player we’ve ever had. To ignore that out of spite due to a bad exit, most of which was the fault of an already despised owner anyway, would be petty.
But the smartest part of a move like this is all about branding. Just as the team is doing everything it can to cement itself as a piece of the greatest-ever tight end’s legacy while it still can, this is a way for the Falcons to remind people that Prime was ours first. When he’s giving his Hall of Fame induction speech next year, at some point a graphic will pop on screen listing his membership in the Falcons’ club. He isn’t in the Cowboys Ring of Honor yet — meaning they’ll add him after the Falcons do, and the Falcons will get mentioned in Canton alongside the Cowboys (HINT: that’s good branding).
Sanders also stands for a critical period in Falcons history. After Bartkowski led the team to one of its best seasons ever in 1980, the Falcons all but disappeared from the NFL landscape during the 1980s. Prime’s arrival changed that. Not only did the Falcons return to the national spotlight for Sanders’ play and what the kids call swag, they also went back to the playoffs for the first time since the late ‘70s. As the team’s far-and-away best player, Sanders deserves a heap of credit. Though the team briefly returned to obscurity shortly after, it’s hard to imagine the runs Jamal Anderson and Michael Vick had as citywide stars without a Sanders-shaped context and precedent. Sure, Vick would’ve been huge either way, but a percentage of his biggest Atlanta fans only took up NFL fandom in the first place because of Sanders.
All for this move.
Former Falcons CB Deion Sanders, freshly appalled at his ranking in the NFL Network's 100 greatest players list, will be added to the Atlanta Falcons' Ring of Honor at halftime of this year's Falcons-Ravens Thursday nighter on Nov. 11. While it will be jarring and bizarre to see Prime Time's number in the rafters alongside old-school long-time Falcons like Claude Humphrey, Jessie Tuggle, and Tommy Nobis, this is merited. Though he was only a part of the franchise for a handful of seasons, he's still the best football player to ever wear red and black. And not just the Atlanta Falcons' red and black. #shotsfired
Though he left the team on terrible terms, and came back a year later as a member of the despised San Francisco 49ers to run back a pick six while mocking the entire Falcons sideline (and slap Andre Rison), much of the Falcons fanbase still approves of Prime. Many are too young to remember his more old-guy-infuriating moments, and the ones who do remember them likely approve, as everybody likes things that make old guys mad.
In a statement shared by D. Led, Sanders said:
When I was dreaming as a kid, I couldn’t often times share those dreams because I thought they were so out of the box. Never would people think that a kid from Ft. Myers, Florida, who was small in stature, but big on confidence, would ever have his name recognized in a stadium in the only place he played in which he called home. I want to thank Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and the organization (ironically 21 years later from the year I was drafted) for making my dreams come true.
Prime is also up for Hall of Fame honors next year alongside Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, and others. Over the summer The Falcoholic took a hard look at Deion's Falcons credentials, and a few weeks ago we looked at where Sanders stood among his contemporaries, and we (meaning I) do not agree with our (meaning Troy's) assessment. Hall of Fame ceremonies go down next August, and that is going to be one hell of an induction speech.
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