Deion Sanders remixed his “Must Be The Money” mantra one last time during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech on Saturday night.
His Canton-gold jacket even matched the gold vest from the video of the single off his 1994 album, “Prime Time.” Remember? The song Sanders performed as host of Saturday Night Live just a few weeks after winning the first of his back-to-back Super Bowl titles with the 49ers (XXIX) and Cowboys (XXX).
In fact, the 44-year-old Sanders’ speech not only echoed the track he recorded on MC Hammer’s record label as a 26-year-old but also, apparently, a promise he made as a seven-year-old in Fort Myers, Fla.
“I made a promise when I was seven years old to this young woman at the age of 27. She was working two jobs just to see if ends could see one another, cause they never met. And she was slaving over pots and pans on that precise day,” said an emotional Sanders, in front of roughly 13,000 fans in Canton, Ohio.
“And I said, ‘Mamma’ — because I was tired of seeing her go to work and come home all tired — I said, ‘We’re gonna be rich one day. Mamma, I’m going to make a lot of money. And you will never have to work another day of your life.’ My mamma said, ‘That’s fine. But until then, you get that lawnmower and go out and cut that grass.’ …
“I made a pledge to myself, that I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care what it may take, I’m not going to do anything illegal, but my mamma will never have to work another day of her life.”
Deion definitely kept his promise to Constance Knight, whose strength, dignity and pride were on display in the VIP family section near the stage at Fawcett Stadium.
On the gridiron, Sanders had Darrelle Revis’ cover skills, Ed Reed’s ball-hawking instincts, Chris Johnson’s warp speed and Devin Hester’s broken-field return abilities. But even that breakdown doesn’t do justice to Sanders’ talents.
After a stellar career at North Fort Myers High, Sanders was named to the Florida All-Century team by the FHSA. He won the Jim Thorpe Award playing for Bobby Bowden at Florida State, before being the No. 5 overall pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1989.
Sanders signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994 and went on to have his best season — recording six INTs for 303 yards (50.5 ypr) and three TDs en route to being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year and winning Super Bowl XXIX.
He won Super Bowl XXX after signing with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995. And after a one-year run with the Washington Redskins in 1999, Sanders retired from football for the first time. At age 37, Prime Time returned to the NFL as a nickelback for the Baltimore Ravens, before retiring for good in 2005.
An eight-time All-Pro over 14 seasons, Sanders recorded 53 career INTs for 1,331 yards (25.1 ypr) and nine TDs; had 60 receptions for 784 yards (13.1 ypc) and three TDs; 155 kick returns for 3,523 yards (22.7 ypr) and three TDs; 212 punt returns for 2,199 yards (10.4 ypr) and six TDs; one fumble return TD and one rushing TD. Sanders is the only player in history to score a TD six different ways.
On the diamond, Neon Deion — a nickname he never embraced and reportedly never liked — had a Michael Bourn identity as a speedy center fielder for the Yankees, Braves, Reds and Giants.
Even in limited action, Sanders showed flashes of brilliance, hitting .533 with five steals for the Braves in the 1992 World Series and stealing 56 bases in 115 games for the Reds in 1997, the only year he had 500 at-bats.
Sanders is the only man to play in both the Super Bowl and World Series. His alter-ego persona, Prime Time, was one of Nike’s finest pitchmen. Love him or hate him, Deion is a one-name icon and one of the most influential and electrifying athlete-entertainers of all time.
But in the end, for Sanders — whether he is the father of five at a Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony, a cocky young rapper dancing in a music video or just a kid sitting in the kitchen talking to his mom — the bottom line has always been the bottom line.
“Many of my naysayers said, ‘You know, Prime didn’t tackle,’” Sanders acknowledged, as he wrapped up his speech.
“Since 1989, I’ve tackled every bill my mamma has ever given me. The next time they say, ‘Prime didn’t tackle,’ make sure you let them know, ‘Yes he did.’”
Must be the money.