Happy Dallas Cowboys Day!
That’s right, baby. America’s Team is playing in a 60-minute long game of football this evening. The game will take place at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, which will play host to the most primetime event of the 2015 NFL season… Super Bowl 50.
As we continue our Countdown To Kickoff series with the Greatest 21 in Dallas Cowboys History, the current Dallas Cowboys will hope to ride the waves of success generated by their current 21 into the primetime lights.
Part of that process will happen tonight as the Cowboys look to fine tune their roster and see which players they want to carry into the regular season on their quest to Super Bowl 50. Before that happens we’re going to establish just who is the Greatest 21 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 21 For The Dallas Cowboys:
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
The 1989 NFL Draft gave us the flashiest player to ever enter the NFL – Deion Sanders. The former Florida State Seminole was beginning a professional baseball career with the New York Yankees, but he was also one of the finest cornerback prospects to ever enter the NFL.
At the NFL Combine teams that are considering drafting players conduct interviews with them where they ask a series of questions, regarding football or anything in general. Deion famously would not show up to his interviews with teams not picking in the top 10 because they had “no shot at getting him,” as Deion was surely going in the top five.
The Atlanta Falcons did in fact spend the fifth overall pick on Deion Sanders and the lights of the NFL all gravitated towards its newest star.
Sanders paid off his high price when he returned the first punt that he fielded for a touchdown. That was the thing about Deion, he was so gifted as an overall athlete that he could do far more than just play the corner position.
Deion spent five years in the ATL establishing himself as one of the game’s biggest playmakers. He developed into the most feared corner throughout the league. He was so quick and so athletic that he literally took up an entire half of the field with his coverage.
The San Francisco 49ers signed Deion to a one-year contract entering the 1994 season. He brought his usual greatness as he returned three interceptions for touchdowns that season. One of the greater things about Deion, if you were on the right side of this, was his celebrations down the sideline. After he’d pick you off he would dance his way all to the endzone, high-steppin’ the whole way. He and his wild personality helped the 49ers beat the Cowboys in that NFC Championship Game and win Super Bowl XXIX.
Entering the 1995 season Deion Sanders was yet again a free agent. He was the hottest commodity on the market and he was commanding amounts of money that proved that. The Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and San Francisco 49ers all wanted #21 on their roster.
Jerry Jones is a businessman like no other. When starting cornerback Kevin Smith was lost to injury early in the 1995 season, Mr. Jones knew that the acquisition of Deion would now be more than a prize… it became a necessity. Jerry wooed Deion down to Dallas, finally settling on a then-record seven year contract worth $35 million dollars.
Deion didn’t make his Cowboy debut until Week 9 of the 1995 season, a game that was played against his original team… the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys trumped Atlanta and began to pick up momentum towards the playoffs.
Deion only recorded 2 interceptions in the 1995 season, but his effect was certainly felt. In Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers the mere threat of Deion forced Neil O’Donnell elsewhere… and in the direction of Larry Brown, who picked off O’Donnell twice.
Sanders and the Cowboys were champions, and in a Cowboy uniform Deion had developed into an even bigger megastar. Over the course of his career he seemed to have his biggest performances when the lights were brightest and the attention was highest. It was due to this that Deion Sanders generated one of the greatest nicknames in sports history… Primetime.
Primetime was one of the most fun players to watch in his career. He put together 14 interceptions in just 5 years with the Cowboys, but he brought a level of fear to the secondary that influenced the game far beyond any statistic can measure.
21st And Prime
Deion can currently be seen on NFL Network and CBS as he’s a part of the Thursday Night Game crew. His primetime persona has followed him into the tv studio as he’s always got something clever to say. Following all of the games on Sundays he usually picks his top 10 performances of the day and counts them down in his “21st and Prime” segment.
Deion Sanders is arguably the greatest cornerback to ever live, and while his most impressive run was with the Atlanta Falcons he did the number 21 proudly during his time in Dallas. 21 still has an air of “prime” to it and Cowboy fans everywhere are hoping that Joseph Randle can continue that trend as the Cowboys look to have a superb season with him running the rock.
Primetime was one of the greatest showmen that the NFL has ever seen. He is already a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2011, and will forever be someone that people remember across generations of football. 21 may not be a prime number, but the jersey is… and Deion Sanders is the Greatest 21 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 20 in Dallas Cowboys History is!