I’ve been sitting in my man cave watching the NFL Network documentaries of the Class of 2011 Hall of Famers featuring Marshall Faulk with Dick Vermeil, Mike Martz and former players like Torry Holt speaking on his behalf. There was NFL Films footage of Marshall slicing and dicing defenses as a runner and receiver. He is one of only two running backs to ever rush for 1,000 yards and also have 1,000 yards receiving in one season. Rogre Craig was the other The Faulk documentary was extremely impressive.
When the Deion Sanders piece came on, I had to stop typing my column. My concentration went completely out the window as I sat and took it all in. It covered the period from 1985 when he stepped on the Florida State campus to his retirement party.
Sanders was the best shutdown corner and arguably the best overall athlete to ever play the game of football. And, he had many nicknames. There was “Prime Time,” “Prime,” and “Neon Deion.” He was a two-sport athlete (football and baseball) and was also the first athlete to play in a World Series and a Super Bowl.
His versatility as a corner and receiver, not to mention a punt returner, was off the charts. He was flamboyant, cocky and arrogant on the field. His teammates spoke about a “Prime Time” that was much different in the locker room. Many of his peers over the years say he was a damn good locker-room guy and a very good teammate. A player that took over games singlehandedly. Sanders had several phrases but the best for me was, “I don’t love the camera, the camera loves me.”
His legacy as a football player, showman and businessmen was the fact that he created and sold a brand. “Prime” earned several awards during his journey, including All-Pro, Pro Bowler, and the ultimate — two Super Bowl Rings. Now he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I love the game of football and I have the utmost respect for the owners of the 32 clubs. But the men that play the game are the product. Years after all the crowds are gone, and the names are forgotten by the younger players, the stories will still rage on about the greats that played the game by the elders in the barber shops, church food drives and those bellied up to the bar. These are the men that helped pave the way for all future players.
When you hear head coaches, college and professional, when you hear high-school teachers talk about these men headed to the Hall of Fame; when you hear national media and fellow players talk about the Class of 2011 you realize how special these athletes really were.
I’m sorry I can’t make this weekend’s inductions, but you can bet I will be watching these legends give their speeches. I will watch them and reminisce. I will enjoy the highlight films and the unveiling of the bronze busts in Canton.
Only a select few make it this far.