Dec 5, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Deion Sanders on the NFL Network set before the game between the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Two stars who left
Sanders is recognized by some as the greatest cornerback in NFL history. But beyond that, he was one of the greatest pure athletes as well. He’s second all-time in return touchdowns to current Atlanta return man Devin Hester, and he scored 10 total touchdowns in his Falcons career (five kickoff/punt returns, three defensive returns, and two offensive receptions).
Sanders was a factor in baseball as well. He had a jaw dropping .533 batting average in the 1992 World Series for the Braves in four games, and might have won World Series MVP had Atlanta won that title. He also ranked second in the National League in stolen bases, with 56 (in only 115 games played), in 1997 for the Cincinnati Reds.
The thing about Sanders, however, is that he left. After five years with the Falcons, Primetime left in free agency to go play for the San Francisco 49ers.
Seven years later, the next Falcon to come in and set the NFL world on fire was Michael Vick: who was selected with the first overall pick of the 2001 NFL draft. Vick clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash time at the combine, the fastest ever by a quarterback.
The accuracy was never really there with Vick’s arm, but he was always a big play waiting to happen. He had elite speed and arm strength to match. The Virginia Tech product led the Falcons to an NFC Championship appearance in 2003, and to this day is the only QB to ever tally 1000 rushing yards in a season.
There wasn’t a player in the NFL who was more exciting. Michael Vick and the city of Atlanta was the perfect marriage.
However, much like with Wilkins and Sanders, it didn’t last. Vick’s fall from grace was the most brutal, as he was arrested in 2007, and pleaded guilty to felony charges for his role in a dog fighting ring. He spent a few years in jail and was released by the team.
The allure of Mike Vick was so powerful, however, that to this day there are people who still wish he was with the Falcons, despite everything Matt Ryan and the new era of Falcons have accomplished. The need for that kind of exciting superstar was so great to some people in the city, that there are still No. 7 jerseys worn proudly in Atlanta.
Next: With Julio, Atlanta has its star