Deion Sanders, a retired football and baseball great, is one of the most versatile professional athletes of the contemporary period. In 1989, he was drafted by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and he also signed with the MLB’s New York Yankees. He became the only athlete in history to hit a home run and score a touchdown in both major leagues in the same seven-day span.
He is also the only athlete in history to have competed in both the World Series and the Super Bowl. Sanders, known as “Prime Time” after retiring from professional athletics, worked as a television pundit before becoming a football coach. He is presently the head coach of the football team at the University of Colorado.
Early Life and College
Deion Luwynn Sanders was born in Fort Myers, Florida on August 9, 1967. When he was a toddler, his parents divorced. His father, Mims Sanders, struggled with drug addiction throughout his life and died in 1993 from a brain tumor. Connie, Deion’s mother, eventually married Willie Knight, who became Deion’s stepfather.
Deion was playing organized baseball and football by the age of eight. Sanders was an all-state football, baseball, and basketball player at North Fort Myers High School. He was a cornerback and quarterback on the football field. He could easily score on the basketball floor. Sanders was given the nickname “Prime Time” by a friend after a particularly hot shooting night in which he scored 30 points.
Sanders chose Florida State University for college, where he led the Seminoles baseball team to the College World Series and the football team to the Sugar Bowl. Sanders quit basketball in college, opting instead to be a two-sport athlete. The experiment, however, did not last long, as Deion soon found himself on the school’s track team, where he helped the squad win the conference championship.
Sanders finished his football career at Florida State as a two-time All American with 14 interceptions and a Jim Thorpe Award for finest defensive back in 1988. In the 1989 NFL draft, he was chosen fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons. At the time, it was assumed that Sanders would focus completely on football, but “Neon Deion,” as he was commonly referred to, had other plans.
Sanders signed with the New York Yankees in the summer of 1989, playing outfield for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. On September 5, after being called up to the parent club, he hit his first home run against Seattle. Sanders and the Falcons settled on a four-year, $4.4 million contract the following week, following a protracted contract negotiation period. Three days after signing the contract, he justified the huge bucks by returning his first punt for a touchdown, making him the only athlete in history to hit a home run and score a touchdown in the same seven-day span.
The ease with which Sanders developed into an excellent football player was not available to him on the baseball diamond. His outspoken nature clashed with the game’s more reserved personality. He got into an on-field brawl with Carlton Fisk, one of baseball’s all-time great catchers. In retaliation for statements made about him by the television broadcaster, he dropped a bucket of cold water over Tim McCarver’s head on air.
Sanders’ struggles at the plate didn’t help matters. Deion was released by the Yankees after hitting only.171 during the season. He found a new home with the Atlanta Braves, where he enjoyed a little more success. Sanders hit.533 in the World Series for the team. He hit.304 with 14 steals during the 1992 season.
Sanders had his best season with the Cincinnati Reds in 1997, when he had 127 hits and stole 56 bases. After sitting out the next three seasons, Sanders returned to baseball and the Reds for one final season in 2001, playing 32 games and hitting.173.
Football, on the other hand, was a different story. Sanders signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994 after five seasons with the Falcons. Deion set a franchise record with three interception returns for touchdowns for his new squad, was named Defensive Player of the Year, and led the team to a Super Bowl victory. He is still the only athlete to have competed in both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
But his time in San Francisco was limited. He got a new seven-year, $35 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys that offseason. Sanders led his team to a Super Bowl victory, just as he had done the year before with the 49ers. The following season, Sanders made history by playing both wide receiver and defensive back, becoming the first NFL player to do so in nearly four decades. He caught 36 passes for 475 yards during the season.
While Sanders never won another title, he continued to compel opposing quarterbacks to avoid his side of the field. Sanders received a new contract with the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders) after being released by the Cowboys in 2000. Sanders had four more interceptions that year, but at the end of the season, he retired and went upstairs to the comfort of the television booth.
TV Personality and Analyst
Sanders’ harsh opinion was added to CBS’ NFL Today pregame broadcast for the next two NFL seasons. When the network refused to boost Sanders’ $1 million annual contract, he came out of retirement and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Sanders stayed with the club for two years, recording five interceptions to raise his career total to 53.
Sanders returned to television for 14 years as an analyst for NFL Network, appearing on Thursday Night Football and several studio shows.
Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love, a reality show that followed Sanders, his second wife Pilar, and their children in small-town Texas, launched in 2008. On the Oxygen network, the show lasted only one season.
Coaching Career: Jackson State and Colorado
Sanders began coaching while continuing to work as an NFL pundit on television.
Sanders began working on the annual Under Armour All-America Game, which features some of the top high school recruits in the country, in 2012. Sanders became the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill, the Dallas-area high school that his sons Shilo and Shedeur also went, five years later. During Sanders’ tenure, the Tigers went 42-3 and won three consecutive Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools championships.
Then, in 2020, Sanders was hired as head football coach at Jackson State University, home to one of the NCAA’s top HBCU football programs.His first game wasn’t until February 21, 2021, as the Southwestern Athletic Conference played a spring season due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but it was a 53-0 victory over Edward Waters that placed the squad on the map nationally.
Sanders was voted FCS National Coach of the Year the following season after leading Jackson State to 11 wins, a conference championship, and a trip to the Celebration Bowl. He was also back to teaching his boys; Shedeur was the quarterback, and he threw for 30 touchdowns.
After being named head coach at the University of Colorado that December, Sanders secured a promotion to the NCAA Bowl Subdivision after a 12-win season in 2022. The Buffaloes were in disarray following a one-win season, and sports authorities thought Sanders could revitalize the program. “This is my job, my occupation, my business, and my dream to bring you back to where you know you should belong,” Sanders said in his opening remarks. “All you want is an opportunity to win, compete, and dominate… and darn it, I’m going to give you that.”
Following Sanders’ hire, more than 50 Colorado players entered the transfer portal as “Coach Prime” entirely rebuilt the club. Several of his Jackson State teammates, including sons Shedeur and Shilo, accompanied him to Boulder. All of the turnover paid off right away, as Colorado started the 2023 season with an upset win over ranked TCU, followed by two more triumphs. Sanders and his colleagues were also featured on the CBS news show 60 Minutes’ season launch in mid-September.
Personal Life: Fianceé, Ex-Wives, Kids, and More
Sanders, who has been divorced twice, is currently engaged to Tracey Edmonds, a producer and former TV journalist. He has five children from his previous marriages.
Sanders married Carolyn Chambers in 1989, and the pair has two children: Deiondra in April 1992 and Deion Jr. in December 1993. Deion’s younger brother played three football seasons at Southern Methodist University before launching the Well Off clothing line in 2016.
Sanders divorced Chambers in 1998, and he married his second wife, actress Pilar Biggers, in 1999. They have three children: Shilo and Shedeur, born in February 2000 and February 2002, respectively, and Shelomi, born in December 2003. Sanders and Biggers divorced a decade after their daughter was born.
Shilo was offered a football scholarship at Florida State, his father’s alma mater, but chose to play for South Carolina instead. He later followed Deion to Jackson State and Colorado. Shedeur is the starting quarterback for Colorado right now.
Shelomi is a skilled basketball player who attended Jackson State for one season before going to Colorado with her brothers.
Sanders is a fervent Christian who turned to God after attempting suicide in 1997. Sanders drove his automobile off an embankment in Cincinnati, where he was playing baseball for the Reds, since his first marriage was failing. “I ran the car off the cliff, and it was like a 40-, 30-foot drop. The car went down and hit, and there wasn’t a scratch on me or the car,” he said in 1998. “I was just empty. I tried cars, jewelry, clothes, women, money. Everything. Nothing could fulfill me.”
Sanders earned just under $59 million as a professional athlete and now earns just under $6 million each year at Colorado, according to Celebrity Net Worth. His net worth is believed to be $45 million.