Since the days of Jim Thorpe in the early 1900's, the multi-sport professional athlete was not even something people considered to be a reality. With the high demand on time and commitments, not to mention overlapping seasons, it was perceived as not being physically possible. That is until the late 1980's and early '90's when Bo Jackson hit the scene proving this theory was only a myth if one had the right tools to conquer such a feat. Bo excelled, and in 1989 he would hit 32 home runs and be named the All-Star Game MVP as an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, then was named to the Pro Bowl as a RB with the Raiders the next year. Although not quite as heralded, Deion Sanders believed he possessed the skill to pull off the same feat.
Deion was drafted in the sixth round of the '85 MLB draft by the Royals, who offered him $50,000 to sign with them. As tempting as the offer was, considering Deion grew up in a poor environment and his family could have certainly used the money, he chose to accept a scholarship to play football and baseball at Florida State University. Drawing on inspiration from the success of Bo, Sanders starred as a Seminole by running track and field, helping the baseball team reach the College World Series twice (including a runner-up finish in '86), and by coincidentally winning the Jim Thorpe Award for college football's best defensive back in '88 after the Seminoles won the Sugar Bowl.
"Neon Deion" could do it all, and in 1988 the New York Yankees decided that it was worth using a 30th round pick on him. He accepted the Yankees' offer of $75,000 and spent 28 games in the minors honing his skills. After finishing at FSU, Sanders returned to the diamond, where he spent most of the season between AA Albany and AAA Columbus. On April 24th, he was selected with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, although he was unable to officially sign his football contract as he was playing baseball. One month after the Falcons drafted him, "Prime Time" officially hit New York in his MLB debut with the Yankees. He only played a couple weeks in New York before returning to the minors.
With the NFL season quickly approaching and no contract officially signed, Sanders returned to the Yankees as a September call-up. Although New York was in the midst of its worst seasons in franchise history, Sanders gave the team some excitement in an early September game. On September 5th, Deion showed why he was the real deal. In a game against the Seattle Mariners at the Kingdome, Sanders led the Yankees in a 12-2 blowout going 3-for-5 on the night with a pair of doubles and his second major league home run. The next day, he played six innings and left the team. While he was disappointed to be leaving the Yankees, "Prime Time" finally signed his lucrative deal with the Falcons and reported to Atlanta for a game on Sunday.
Even without any time in training camp, Sanders once again proved why the legend was not a myth. In his first ever punt return, he took it 68 yards for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. In doing so, Sanders became the only person to ever hit a home run and score a touchdown at baseball and football's top levels in the same week. It was an incredible individual accomplishment, albeit a tough one for both the Yankees and Falcons to take. They each wanted their player to focus on one sport, but Sanders loved both too much to give it up. He played the '90 season with the Yankees, then moved on to the Braves in Atlanta, where it was easier for him to do the two sports. Sanders later became the only person to ever play in both the World Series and the Super Bowl. "Neon Deion" was a polarizing figure, but he was clearly one of the most talented athletes in history.