Deion Sanders was known by several nicknames when he dazzled as an NFL defensive back and return man. Fans called him “Neon Deion” or “Primetime.” He was first-name-only famous.
But Sanders is a head coach now. And he’s emphatic that he wants to be called Coach Sanders. That’s why he abruptly walked out of an interview. A reporter made the mistake of calling him Deion.
Sanders is headed into his second season as head coach at Jackson State. He was in Birmingham, Ala. for the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s media days to preview the upcoming season. A reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger asked a question, while referring to Deion Sanders as Deion.
Sanders then brought up Alabama’s iconic coach, Nick Saban.
“You don’t call Nick Saban, ‘Nick.’ Don’t call me Deion,” Sanders said. “If you call Nick, ‘Nick,’ you’ll get cussed out on the spot. So don’t do that to me.”
Deion Sanders added: “Treat me like Nick.”
When another reporter called him Deion, Sanders walked out of the press conference.
Now, Deion Sanders knows football. There’s no questioning that. He also was a fabulous athlete, with his dual careers in the NFL and Major League Baseball. He’s the only athlete ever to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. The former three-sport star at Florida State is a member of both the NFL Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Deion Sanders may end up as good as Saban as a college football coach. But he’s currently a long way away from Saban’s stature. The 53-year-old Sanders has coached seven career games, winning four of them. Conversely, Saban owns seven national championships.
Reporters Answer Deion Sanders: No, Nick Saban Doesn’t Mind Being Called Nick
Nick Suss of the Clarion-Ledger was one reporter who called Sanders by his first name. This isn’t a unique occurrence in exchanges between reporters and coaches.
“When I interview people, I call them by their first name,” Suss said of his Deion Sanders moment. “Whether it’s someone I’ve been working with for years, or someone I’m talking to for the first time. This is true of the coaches and players on the Ole Miss beat, the coaches and players at Mississippi State and Southern Miss. when I help out covering their teams and, as recently as January, even Sanders, too.”
In response to Deion Sanders’ comments, several reporters who covered Nick Saban offered their thoughts on social media.
John Talty, who covered Saban, posted: “Deion Sanders couldn’t be more inaccurate. Nick Saban doesn’t “cuss out” reporters who call him “Nick” like Deion says. What a clown move to walk out of media days over that.”
The ProFootballTalk account posted: “Deion Sanders gets mad at reporter for addressing him as “Deion,” then claims reporters don’t call Nick Saban “Nick.” (He’s wrong; reporters routinely address Saban as “Nick.”)
Chase Goodbread, who works for NFL.com, tweeted: “I covered Saban for 6 years. He was called Nick many times. He never said a word.”