The Atlanta Falcons today announced that cornerback Deion Sanders is the latest inductee into the team's prestigious Ring of Honor. Sanders was named the eighth member of this exclusive club by a poll of a local media selection committee.
"When I was dreaming as a kid, I couldn't oftentimes share those dreams because I thought they were so out of the box," Sanders said. "Never would people think that a kid from Ft. Myers, Fla., who was small in stature, but big on confidence, would ever have his name recognized in a stadium in the only place he played in which he called home. I want to thank Falcons owner Arthur Blank and the organization — ironically 21 years later from the year I was drafted — for making my dreams come true."
The induction and celebration of the newest member of the Falcons Ring of Honor will take place at halftime of the nationally-televised Thursday night game between the Falcons and Ravens on Nov. 11 at the Georgia Dome. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. on NFL Network.
"Deion Sanders is widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in the 91-year history of the National Football League," Blank said. "He epitomized excellence on the playing field and was a tremendously gifted athlete who possessed great speed. Deion excelled as a defender, kick returner, punt returner and on offense on his way to establishing 12 club records. He was an electrifying performer who put fans on the edge of their seats every time he manned his cornerback position or dropped back to receive a kickoff or field a punt. He is, without question, one of the greatest players in the history of our franchise."
Sanders was a three-time Pro Bowl starter during his Falcons career after being selected as the fifth overall player in the 1989 draft out of Florida State. Considered one of the best pure cornerbacks ever to lace up a pair of cleats, Sanders also doubled as a dangerous return man. He was recently tabbed the 34th best player in the history of the League by a new NFL Films-produced series, The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players.
Sanders' Falcons career started in memorable fashion as he returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in his first NFL game as a rookie against the Los Angeles Rams at Fulton County Stadium. Sanders' All-Rookie season also included him leading all first-year defensive backs with five interceptions and becoming the first Falcons player to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Nov. 13, 1989).
During his productive Falcons career from 1989-93, "Prime Time" established 12 club records for such marks as: most interceptions for touchdowns (2), longest punt return (79 yards-TD), most punt return touchdowns (2), most KOR yards (3,063), most KOR touchdowns (3), longest kickoff return (100t), most combined return touchdowns (8), and most combined return yards (3,967), among others. The electrifying Sanders scored a total of 10 touchdowns in a Falcons uniform on five returns, three interceptions and two receptions.
"Deion Sanders was the pre-eminent cornerback of his era and perhaps of all-time," said D. Orlando Ledbetter, sports writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a member of the media committee that voted Sanders into the team's Ring of Honor. "No one could argue with his ability to play the game and what he meant to the Falcons."
"Deion was electricity in a football uniform," added Randy Waters, longtime sports reporter at WXIA-TV, who covered Sanders during his Falcons career and is also a member of the media committee. "He had a burning desire to win that helped the Falcons get back into the postseason, and his overall play throughout his career will ultimately help him through the front door in Canton (site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame)."
Sanders joins RB William Andrews, QB Steve Bartkowski, T Mike Kenn, DE Claude Humphrey, LB Tommy Nobis, LB Jessie Tuggle and C Jeff Van Note as members of team's Ring of Honor. Kenn and Humphrey were the last players to be inducted by the team in 2008.
The Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor pays tribute to retired players who made significant contributions to the Falcons during their playing careers.
#### SANDERS' FALCONS CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
Three-time Pro Bowl starter (1991-93) * First-team All-Pro (Associated Press, 1992) * Scored 10 touchdowns in Falcons uniform (via 3 interceptions, 5 returns,
- During his Falcons career established 12 club records: longest punt return (79t yards), most punt return TD's (2), most KOR's (133), most KOR yards (3,063), most KOR yards in game (190), most KOR TD's (3), longest kickoff return (100t), most interceptions for TD's (2), most combined return TD's (8), most combined return yards (3,967), most combined return yards in game (245), and most combined returns (228) * First player since Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell (1958-61) to return a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown FOUR consecutive seasons * Only pro athlete to play two sports (football & baseball) in same city since 1960-61