Deion Sanders Fondly Recalls That Time He Owned The Giants At The NFL Combine

Deion Sanders was picked fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1989 NFL draft. Four of the first five picks ended up in the Hall Of Fame (word to Tony Mandarich), but even though it was a spectacular draft, there was no way Sanders was going to make it past the very top of the draft order. Dude put up what was then the second-fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL combine history.

The Giants had the 18th pick, yet they still wanted to evaluate him. Teams outside of the top of the draft routinely check out and test top prospects, which makes sense since they can always trade up if they fall in love with a player. New York’s GM at the time was George Young, true believer in the Wonderlic test, and he apparently tried to get Sanders to sit and take a two-hour-long written psychological assessment test. As Sanders said on NFL Network this afternoon, he was having none of that.

“And it happened to be the Giants’ room. And they sat me down and gave me a thick book. I mean, this thing was thicker than a phone book. I said, ‘What’s this?’ They said, ‘This is our test we give to all the players.’ I said, ‘Excuse me, what pick do you have in the draft?’ They said, I think 10th. I said, ‘I’ll be gone before then, I’ll see y’all later. I ain’t got time for this.’”
Sanders also talked about what the NFL combine used to be, which is more or less a circus.

“It was just chaos in the hotels — all the agents were trying to grab you. The teams were trying to grab you. People were just trying to get next to you to secure your services. And I remember backing into this room. I didn’t know where I was going, I was trying to get away from the people outside.

Photo: David Banks/AP

Deion Sanders’ NFL Combine was so legendary, people will believe anything about it

Deion Sanders is one of the greatest athletes we’ve ever seen. You know this already. He became one of the NFL’s few modern two-way players, once hit an MLB home run, scored an NFL touchdown in the same week, and once attempted to play in games in both sports in the same day, and all that stuff.

His legend began well before he was an NFL draft prospect, but everything he did in college or in the pros remains verifiable. It’s the stuff at the mysterious, pre-TV combine that’s really taken on a life of its own and sprouted some quality nonsense, and Sanders (my favorite athlete ever) doesn’t seem to mind all that much.

1. He says he told the Giants, who were picking 10th, that interviewing him would be a waste of everyone’s time.
“It happened to be the Giants’ room. They set me down and gave me a thick book. This thing was thicker than a phone book,” he said on NFL Network during the last day of 2017’s combine. “I said, ‘What’s this?’ They said, ‘This is our test that we give all the players.’ I said, ‘Excuse me, what pick do you have in the draft?’ They said, ‘10th.’ I said, ‘I’ll be gone before then. I’ll see y’all later.’ That’s a true story.”

If that happened, then Sanders was right. He went No. 5, behind three other future Hall of Famers.

2. Leaving immediately after the 40-yard dash? He actually did that part.
I’ve linked to this about 17 times this week, but that’s fine. From Sports Illustrated:

One of the greatest early combine stories came courtesy of Florida State’s Deion Sanders in 1989. There was talk pre-combine that Sanders wouldn’t run the 40 at all; he later said he would take his medicals, run his 40 and go home.

“Deion gets up to the line and runs his first 40 and everyone has him at 4.3. We figured he was done. He gets up and runs another one, and he runs even faster,” said Gettleman, then a scout for the Bills. “Some people had him at 4.25 [officially a 4.27]. And the funniest damn thing about it was he finishes the 40, continues to run, waves to everybody, goes right through the tunnel and we don’t see him again. We all got up and gave him a standing ovation because so many of those guys wouldn’t run.”
These days, it usually gets embellished by most re-tellers to include Deion not just running off the field, but running into a waiting limo that took him straight to the airport.

3. If you want to believe Sanders ran it even faster than that while wearing atypical shoes (more on this in a second), that’s not a problem for Deion.
From CBS:

Sanders long encouraged an urban legend that he rode up to the 1989 combine in a limo, jumped out and ran the 40 in 4.2-something seconds — in street shoes. He insisted it was faster than Johnson.

That myth was exploded Thursday on live television when Sanders and former NFL team executive Charley Casserly revisited that moment in 1989. They are now teammates on NFL Network, but back then Casserly was with Washington and obviously kept precise records. He showed on TV the actual combine printout that showed Sanders’ two best times that day were 4.27 seconds, run in the usual combine garb, not counting Neon Deion’s standard gold jewelry of that time.

Sanders explained.

“I don’t even believe I stretched, you wanna know why? Because I never seen a Cheetah stretch before he go get his prey,” he said. “And I ran, I ran so fast I felt like I was floatin’ ... I felt like I was kinda coming off the ground ... and as I hit the finish line I could remember ... everybody was in disbelief. I just wanted the first person to say 4.2-something because I know 4.3 was not even in the factor.”

4. But his performance is the legend that keeps generating its own ridiculous sub-legends, thanks to the fuzzy records of the 1980s and his persona.

Of all the legends associated with unseen NFL workouts — Bo Jackson’s 4.12! Rondel Menendez’s 4.19! Darrell Green evaporating into subatomic particles! — Sanders’ running-off-the-field story is the true story that already seems the most made-up and thus, once you find out it actually happened, the most fruitful for supplementary mythology. Look up any of those absurd claims about Sanders running the 40 backwards and in boots, and you’ll find people who appear to believe them.


Deion Sanders recalls combine meeting with Giants

The world is a different place than it was in 1989. The NFL Scouting Combine is no outlier.

These days, the combine is run in a very precise manner. Teams are given a finite number of visits with prospects during the event. On the surface at least, everything is on the books.

But in the late '80s, the combine was like the wild west. Deion Sanders was a white-hot commodity a month before the '89 draft and he shared a story during NFL Network's combine coverage that illustrated just how different things were.

"It was just chaos in the hotels -- all the agents were trying to grab you," Sanders told Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock. "The teams were trying to grab you. People were just trying to get next to you to secure your services. And I remember backing into this room. I didn't know where I was going, I was trying to get away from the people outside.

"And it happened to be the Giants' room. And they sat me down and gave me a thick book. I said, 'What's this?' They said, 'This is the test we give to all the players.' I said, 'Excuse me, what pick do you have in the draft?' They said, I think 10th. I said, 'I'll be gone before then, I'll see y'all later. I ain't got time for this.'"

The Giants actually selected 18th in that draft, though they could have attempted to trade up if they loved Deion enough. Sanders was right in his assumption that he'd be long gone by pick 10. He went fifth overall to the Atlanta Falcons.

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