Deion “Prime Time” Sanders is arguably one of the most talented athletes of all time, given that he played in a Super Bowl and World Series in the same year during his professional sports career.
Sanders simultaneously played 14 NFL seasons with a handful of professional teams and nine years with the same number of MLB teams. He collected two Super Bowl rings, the first with the San Francisco 49ers and the second with the Dallas Cowboys. But even at the height of his athletic career, and scores of endorsements flowing in, the elite cornerback found himself at a crossroads.
“Yeah, I was suicidal,” he revealed during his appearance on the “I Am Athlete” podcast. Retired NFL players Chad Johnson, Fred Taylor, Brandon Marshall and Channing Crowder host the show that focuses on the importance of men displaying vulnerability.
“I was …everything, I had everything, turn on the TV I was on every commercial, top of my game playing two sports, and I tried to take myself out in Cinncinati, Ohio,” he continued.
While in the spotlight Sanders had it all, a successful career and two children — son Deion Sanders Jr. and daughter Deiondra Sanders — but privately his 10-year marriage to first wife Carolyn Chambers was crumbling. The difficult divorce process, that began in 1998, led the 1989 fifth-overall NFL draft pick down a road of choosing between life and death.
“Basically because my babies had been taken from me, that was the only thing I felt like loved me at the time, and everybody else they loved what I did, but they didn’t love me because they didn’t know me because I really wasn’t Prime, I was Deion,” he explained.
The Jackson State University head football coach said losing access to his children was the breaking point. “I was up under extreme, I wouldn’t call it stress…pressure, and I didn’t, no longer want to be here, man, and that was, God was calling me collect and I wouldn’t accept the charges.”
Sanders previously opened up about the tumultuous time in his autobiography, “Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life,” which was published in 1999. He recalled that he’d played a great game with the Cincinnati Reds, but even that was not enough to get him from under the heaviness of what he was facing.
“The next morning I got up and it was the side of this highway, um down this highway Cinncinati ran right off. I remember ’cause I don’t lie, don’t lie for nobody, never did, and this police came down to the bottom of this runoff.” Sanders recalled the encounter going something like:
Officer: “Deion Sanders what happened? Did you run off the road; did you lose control?”
Sanders: “I said ‘no sir.’ “
Officer: “Did somebody run you off the road?”
Sanders: “I said, ‘No, sir.’ “
Officer: “What happened?”
“I just looked at him like ‘you know what’s up,’ ” he said. Sanders’ saving grace was his late manager, Eugene Parker, who insisted the NFL Hall of Famer get help or deal with the incident publicly. That same year, Sanders’ divorce was finalized, he married his second wife Pilar Biggers-Sanders and gave his life to God.
“I was at the bottom to me what life was,” calmly stated Sanders. “That’s why you got public success, and everybody’s successful publicly, and they struggling somewhere privately….That’s why you gotta be careful who you call a role model because a lot of these models out here playing roles.”
Those words rang true with Sanders fans who never knew of his struggles. They expressed a range of thoughts:
“Wow deep I would of never thought. Prime Time was so confident. Dam you just never know”
“even us family/friends strong people need help sometimes it may not look like it on the outside”