The primary reason why former two-sport star Deion Sanders sits sandwiched between retired NFL quarterbacks Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason each Sunday on CBS' The NFL Today show is because of his introverted, sedated personality.
Right. And Marino had a weak arm too.
The former professional athlete, who concocted the catchy, self-proclaimed nickname “Prime-Time” while in college at Florida State, was brought into the fold as an analyst on CBS because of his extroverted, opinionated and candid demeanor.
His insertion a year ago provided an instant energy boost to a show that has been trying for years to gain ground on Fox's NFL Sunday and ESPN's NFL Countdown, recognized as the two clear leaders in the NFL pre-game field. Whether it's making bold comments about players and coaches or pulling off comical skits like handing out tricks or treats to players and coaches around Halloween, Sanders has helped pump some life back into the show that once reigned supreme in the 1970s with Brent Musburger as host.
Off the air, Sanders is a different person. Speaking Thursday night at Toledo's Cornerstone Church, Sanders said that it's been five years since he gave up a life of sin and became a Christian.
He talked primarily about how fame and fortune never brought complete happiness and wholeness to one of the most electrifying and famous athletes during the 1990s.
Whether it was winning two Super Bowl rings, becoming the top cornerback in the NFL or one of baseball's top talents, Sanders admits he experienced his share of sleepless nights. Even a bed valued at $10,000 didn't guarantee sleep.
Sanders won one Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys, then another the following year with the San Francisco 49ers. On each occasion he struggled to experience the kind of euphoria that would seem likely for anyone associated with a Super Bowl championship team.
“The night we won the Super Bowl, my first one, I was the first one out of the locker room,” he said. “I was the first one on the bus, the first one to the hotel and the first one to bed. That was my goal [to win a Super Bowl], yet it was meaningless.”
Living in a 15,000-square-foot home - that's right, not 1,500 square feet - with 10 cars on the premises including a Lamborghini, didn't deliver satisfaction. A closet stocked with between 300 to 400 suits and 600 to 700 pairs of shoes color coordinated to match the suits weren't enough to produce the kind of happiness most people think comes along with seemingly unlimited wealth.
He even found out living the life of a playboy didn't provide satisfaction.
Eventually despair overwhelmed Sanders as he went through a divorce from his first wife while also dealing with the thought of losing custody of his children. Furthermore, the always confident cornerback no longer felt like he was strong enough to handle the burdens as the primary problem solver and breadwinner for the entire Sanders clan.
Sanders said he seriously considered putting an end to his life - he even wrote a suicide note - before eventually finding God. Ironically, a simple thought that popped up in his mind worked to help address all his previous concerns.
“I'm better than this,” said Sanders, sharing the sentence that helped turn his life around.
Sanders has been repeating that sentence to himself and others for the last five years. Negative thoughts are part of his past.
The guy who shows up in the snazziest suits and matching shoes each Sunday on The NFL Today appears to be enjoying his life. It at least seems clear Sanders can hold his own in his latest career endeavor.