Deion Sanders Shares His #1 ‘Old School’ Rule That Led to 2 Super Bowl Wins
"Coach Prime" reveals what's kept him humble after more than three decades in sports.
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You would be hard-pressed to find an athlete with a career like Deion Sanders’. Fourteen seasons in the NFL, nine in Major League Baseball, two head coach positions (currently as the head football coach at University of Colorado), countless awards and championships—and the proud title of being the only athlete to play in both the World Series and the Super Bowl.
Whether you know him as “Neon Deion” or “Coach Prime,” Deion Sanders is undoubtedly a legend—a distinction that apparently runs in the Sanders family. Ahead of Super Bowl LVII, Deion Sanders’ whole family is appearing in a commercial for Oikos Yogurt to promote healthy eating and champion strength across generations.
The Healthy @Reader’s Digest couldn’t refuse the chance to chat with this sports icon about how he stays healthy, the rules he wants his kids and his players to follow, and Deion Sanders’ secret to staying grounded—”always,” he says.
Deion Sanders’ secrets to success on and off the field
The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: So first of all, from playing in the World Series and the Super Bowl to now coaching college football, you’ve obviously accomplished so much in your career. What’s one of the biggest lessons you try to teach your team that you wish you’d known at their age?
Deion Sanders: Understand the magnitude of the moment. You never know when the moment is going to occur or arise—but you gotta be prepared, because that moment could come at any time, and everyone will get an opportunity to excel and to make a play that’s game-changing…but you got to understand that moment. And the surprising thing about it, you never know when it’s going to occur.
The Healthy: We love you and your family in the Oikos campaign, and we know a couple of your kids are really successful athletes themselves. What’s the number-one rule you’ve wanted to raise them with in regards to how you think about success?
Deion Sanders: Well, I always told them to be their best. You don’t have to be the best on the team, but be your best for that team and on that certain day. So it’s almost like saying, ‘Give it your all no matter what.’ Just be your best, put your best foot forward.
The psychology of competition
The Healthy: You’ve experienced injuries over the course of your career. One of our regular sources, Matthew Varacallo, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who treats competitive athletes. Dr. Varacallo wanted to get your take on the psychological impact of injuries: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to an athlete who experiences his or her first major injury?
Deion Sanders: Well, you got to understand, I’m a little different. I’m old school. I tell my kids, I’m not coming out there on the field unless I see bone or blood. If it’s lower extremity, we are going to get off that field. Only one young man last season at Jackson [State University in Mississippi, where Sanders coached for three seasons], we had to go out there and get him—he had a knee injury.
But we’re tough, man. If it’s an upper-body extremity, that means you got legs, get up and get off the darn field. We don’t lay down for nothing. So we are just old school in a sense that we’re not going to allow the opponent to understand that they injured us, or we suffered. We’re not going to give them that psychological advantage.
Protein-packed keys to nutrition
The Healthy: I think we all want to stay as healthy as you have over the years, and a big part of that is what we put into our bodies. What are some of your favorite healthy meals or snacks?
Deion Sanders: Well, let’s start with Oikos. I mean, it’s delicious, nutritious, and packed with protein, is second to none. And that’s a daily routine … in betwixt meals, I like that.
I’m not a fried-food guy much at all, but I will have a cheat day or two. I’m really [about] fish, chicken, baked turkey, and just seafood, something like that. But proper vegetables as well. I get protein like crazy as well, but I eat pretty clean. I think sweet iced tea is my crutch. I got to try my best to stop sweet iced tea, but I love sweet iced tea. Colorado’s breaking me out of it though, because they don’t have sweet iced tea.
Deion Sanders on staying grounded: ‘It’s like a way of life’
The Healthy: With the demands of professional sports, we’re sure you’ve developed some important self-care habits. When you need to feel grounded, what’s the self-care routine that you refuse to skip?
Deion Sanders: I’m always grounded. It’s not a feeling, it’s like a way of life. I’m thankful every day that God allows me to walk and talk and be who I am. I’m appreciative of things that many people take for granted. Just pulling in my driveway a couple days ago back in Texas, I just said, “Thank you, Lord, thank you. You could have chosen anybody. You choose me.” And when I land back in Boulder, Colorado, I’m going to say, “Thank you, because you could have chose anyone and you choose me.” I look out the window at the new position that I’ve been placed in, and I’m saying, “Thank you, because you could have chosen anybody, but you chose me.”
And even with this partnership and this relationship with Oikos, you’re talking about a company who embodies and exudes who you are, and understand that your strengths make you unstoppable. I’ve been graced with multiple strengths and I’m thankful—I truly am—just to have this opportunity to even talk to you about where I am and how I am in life and my thought process.