For Deion Sanders, he’s back in Atlanta – The Undefeated

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ATLANTA – It was a few months before his senior varsity season when Deion Sanders flew to Atlanta for a soccer game.

By the time he arrived at the hotel, he had fallen in love with Atlanta.

“We were going through the airport and I saw the most African Americans I have ever seen in my life. They were employed. They were professional. They were going through the airport with all the other ethnicities, but they were wearing costumes, ”Sanders said. “We go to the hotel and an African American was driving. We arrive at the hotel and there were African Americans checking you in.

“I had never seen so many African Americans in my life and it blew me away. Black people drove Mercedes and all kinds of other cars and it blew me away. I made my decision that day. You are not where you are supposed to be internally or professionally.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders looks down from the field during a timeout against the Phoenix Cardinals in the Falcons’ final game of the season at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Jan. 2, 1994.

Ric Feld / AP Photo

“You still have a little ignorance in you. You might want to come here because it looks like they would understand you and your growth.

Then Sanders did it.

The 1989 NFL Draft featured a ton of star players and future Hall of Fame members, otherwise Sanders would likely have been the first or second player selected instead of the fifth.

Dallas, Green Bay, Detroit and Kansas City held the top four picks. Then the Atlanta Falcons would choose.

“I said the teams weren’t drafting me. I play baseball, ”said Sanders, also a Florida state baseball star. “We wanted [Troy] Aikman to go first because he would set the curve with all the money.

“I wasn’t going to Green Bay. I wasn’t going to Detroit. Too cold. I am a boy from Florida. I had a date with Detroit that I didn’t go to. Take the other Sanders. He’s really good.

Well, the project fell perfectly.

Deion Sanders (left) of Florida State reacts as he sits with TV reporter Andrea Kremer (right) at his agent’s suburban home in Winnetka, Illinois on April 23, 1989. Sanders a been selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the NFL Draft. Sanders, a double All-American cornerback at FSU, was the fifth player selected in the first round.

AP Photo

Troy Aikman went to Dallas first. Green Bay took on left tackle Tony Mandarich and Detroit caught Barry Sanders.

Kansas City took on Derrick Thomas, leaving Sanders for Atlanta.

“Back then he was dictating the terms when the terms couldn’t be dictated,” said ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen, who covered the Falcons and the NFL at the time.

Atlanta and Sanders went together like butter and oatmeal. He loved everything in the city, whether he was visiting nursing homes and schools, partying in clubs, or trying to make deals.

The Falcons didn’t have many stars to cheer on over the years.

Linebacker Tommy Nobis and defensive end Claude Humphrey were great players, but they didn’t put butts in the seats.

Their best quarterback since the franchise’s inception in 1966 until Sanders’ rookie year was Steve Bartkowski, who had 156 touchdown passes and 144 interceptions in 11 seasons.

Sanders became the franchise’s most exciting player before he even played a game.

“I loved the whole atmosphere. All the rhythm. Everyone was for everyone. If you showed promises and tried to do it right, Atlanta would roll with you, ”Sanders said. “Atlanta would support you.

“The traffic was so bad, especially after the baseball games. I used to cut through the hood and go out and play ball with the shorties all the time. Then my shoes kicked, and I used to walk across just to see if I was jumping. The hood will let you quickly know what’s hot.

With the 1989 season underway, Sanders quickly electrified the city by returning the first punt of his career in the NFL for a touchdown.

In his first game, Sanders came out to return a punt to a mixed reaction. He started waving his arms in the air, signaling the crowd to more noise, and the boos died down.

A penalty forced a rekick and the same scenario happened. Sanders, after first fumbling around, returned the punt for a touchdown.

“I think people basically saw Muhammad Ali in a football uniform. – I told you who I am. There’s a reason I’m selling tickets. This moment is one of my top 10 sporting moments, and I’ve been covering them for 50 years, ”said Mortensen.

“I had never heard this stadium so loudly. The circumstances that led to it and the fans not knowing who they were – then he became everything and more than everyone expected, ”said Mortensen, who attended the game with his son.

Sanders provided a treasure chest of highlights and game-changing games over the next five years.

He intercepted 24 passes, forced seven fumbles and recovered six more. He also returned two punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns.

And then was gone.

Deion Sanders trains as an Atlanta Braves outfielder during spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. On February 24, 1994.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

“I love the city. It broke my heart, “said Sanders,” when I was traded from the Braves [to Cincinnati] and never even offered the Falcons a contract.

Mortensen said he didn’t know why the Falcons never offered Sanders a contract.

“Deion became the first guy to really sell himself and a franchise. That’s why it was absolutely shocking that they didn’t do everything they could to keep him,” Mortensen said. “You put that on the property and you can read whatever you want on it.”

Sanders has spent the last nine years of his Professional Football Hall of Fame career with San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and Baltimore.

Now he is returning to Atlanta as the Jackson State football coach.

He returns as Eddie Robinson Award winner and 2021 FCS Coach of the Year after going 11-1 this season and has just won over the country’s No.2 player, cornerback Travis Hunter Jr., to withdraw from the state of Florida to sign with Jackson State.

No five-star player has ever signed with an FCS school.

Jackson State, which won the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) title for the first time since 2007, will face South Carolina State in the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Saturday.

Life is Beautiful.

Sanders, however, would love nothing more than to win a black college championship in the city that is synonymous with his name.

Jean-Jacques Taylor, originally from Dallas, is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for 25 years and is President of JJT Media Group.


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