Cowboys cornerback, 1995-99
Nicknames: Prime Time; Neon Deion
Career Stats: click here
Breakdown: With Kevin Smith often injured and Larry Brown often overmatched, the Cowboys needed a shut-down cornerback to bolster their secondary. In Sanders, they added perhaps the best man-to-man cover guy in the league’s modern history (apologies to Night Train). Opposing receivers dreaded seeing Sanders across the line.
Pearlmanâ€™s take: Nice guy who has since seemed to turn around his life, but the Cowboys can now look back and acknowledge the signing of Neion Deion as the beginning of the end. Yes, Dallas won the ’95 Super Bowl. But in giving Sanders soooo much money, Jerry Jones was taking away from other key positions. Furthermore, Sanders’ presence in the locker room was cancerous. Neither a hard worker or a positive influence for young players, Sanders was the cause of many rifts.
From Boys Will Be Boys: On one of his earlier days with the team, Sanders ran into Alundis Brice, who just so happened to wear uniform No. 21, Sanders digits of choice, at a Dallas-based BMW dealer. The rookie defensive back had long wanted to own a BMW 325i, and he was here to make it a reality. â€œBrice, what are you doing?â€ asked Sanders.
â€œIâ€™m gonna buy this car tomorrow,â€ he said. â€œBut I first have to call my agent and set it up.â€
â€œItâ€™s your first sports car?â€ asked Sanders.
â€œAre you gonna pay cash for it?â€ Sanders asked.
Sanders nodded and drove off.
The next morning, Brice reported to Valley Ranch and was dismayed to spot his dream carâ€”a brand new metallic blue 325i with all the trimmingsâ€”parked in the playersâ€™ lot. â€œI canâ€™t believe this,â€ he thought. â€œSomebody bought my car.â€
When he approached his locker, Brice noticed the keys on his stool alongside a note from Sanders. It read: NOW GIVE ME MY DAMN JERSEY!
â€œI wore numbers 22 and 38 in college (at the University of Mississippi), but they gave me 21 with the Cowboys,â€ Brice says. â€œI had no emotional attachment to it. So when I read that note, I took my jersey down, hung it in his locker and got a new number. Iâ€™ll never forget him doing that.â€
With such acts of grace and kindness, it took Sanders little time to develop a following in the Cowboys clubhouse. Like any American office space, Dallas had its cliques, usually divided among lines of race and age. White veterans like Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Jay Novacek could be found in one pocket. The black defensive linemen, headed by Haley, were in another. Now, Sanders was fronting a new groupâ€”the younger defensive players who envied both his game and his lifestyle.
This is where the problems began.
For all his Jim Thorpe-esque skills, Sanders was sleeping-dog lazy. In practices, he went all-out every third or fourth play and refused to wear shoulder pads because, he would say, â€œIâ€™m not gonna tackle anyone anyway.â€ In meeting rooms, he was known to doodle and doze off. Told early on that Cowboys who refused to participate in the teamâ€™s weight training regiment would be fined, Sanders dramatically whipped out his checkbook and jotted down a five-digit figure.
When Mike Woicik, the teamâ€™s gruff strength and conditioning coach, complained about Sandersâ€™ indifference, Switzer sided with his new star. â€œWeâ€™re talking about Deion Sanders here,â€ Switzer told Woicik. â€œIf he doesnâ€™t want to do something, he doesnâ€™t have to.â€
|← Jay Novacek||Emmitt Smith →|