He was a remarkable athlete at Florida State, an even more remarkable athlete as a pro footballer who played for five different teams, helping most of them win championships, and this weekend he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. What you may not know about ‘Prime Time’ is that he is and has been a devout Christian. So it was no surprise when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame this week in Canton Ohio that he gave all honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. And then he thanked about 100 or so people that helped him climb the mountain of football success. And then he began to talk about his Momma, and he made a confession.
Growing up poor is no picnic. In fact sometimes it is quite literally, no picnic— you don’t have enough to eat. It’s no picnic when you are being supported by a Mom who, to make ends meet, has to be a cleaning lady in a hospital.
Deion told the story of how one of his fellow footballers (when he was young, and before he played college ball) had seen his Momma the cleaning lady, and recognized who she was. The thing is that Deion at the time was on an All Star team full of rich white kids, and two African Americans. And it was one of those rich kids who decided it was o.k. to taunt Deion about his blue collar Momma and her job.
Deion confessed before all who would listen this weekend that when that happened, he was, initially ashamed. Ashamed that his mother had to do that so he could play football. Ashamed of growing up poor. And he made a promise when he was still a teen on that occasion, that he would not tire, would not quit, would not stop, until his mother didn’t have to do that any more. At one juncture Deion told the audience, “if your dream in life includes nobody but yourself, that’s a pretty poor and selfish and limited dream”. Amen to that.
Deion’s dream was setting his Momma free, and providing for her, and he certainly achieved that. And once he finished his speech (which Shannon Sharpe said was the best Hall speech he ever heard), in typical ‘stylin’ fashion, he said he liked the bust of him but something was missing— and so he tied his trademark do-rag, head handkerchief around the head of the bust, to the wild applause of the crowd.
Deion Sanders was an electrifying football player and a pretty darn good baseball player as well. Far better than Michael Jordan (though not quite as good perhaps as Bo Jackson at baseball). But he is an even more impressive father and husband and Christian man, and is not afraid to say so in public. Good for him.
As his Momma sat in the audience and cried, we all learned something from the confession about what had motivated Deion day in, and day out, to succeed. His dream was big enough that it not only included others, it meant he would live his life for someone other than himself. In a world full of narcissistic athletes, this was like a breath of fresh air. Breath it in. I look forward to meeting Primetime in Kingdom time in the Hall of Faith.
BELOW: Highlights from Deion Sanders’ Hall of Fame induction speech: