He should be sculpted onto a wall in Canton or even have a bronze statue unveiled in front of Cowboys Stadium, where he once played and bloomed into a star during his 14-year career in the league. You don't have to be a fan to admire or dislike Deion Sanders.

If there ever was a proper time to honor Sanders, it does seem we've reached the point in which the flamboyant cornerback is scheduled to emerge onto stage tonight at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies. All of us eventually become attach to a legend, even the pompous stars of the finest franchises in football.

All of us eventually embrace a legendary player when his career is over, recalling what he brought to the game and what he carried out that entertained people the most. The man ran hard as a versatile cornerback on the football field, but Sanders was clearly ignored for exposing arrogance, taunting opposing teams with his signature dances and offering his dynamic talents, attributes to personify one of the former NFL greats.

Why else would anyone despise or adore Sanders, seemingly an electrifying defender, a do-everything corner, a fearsome legend -- if you believe it -- and a game-changing performer? The diehards even knew Sanders was that damn remarkable, a dangerous threat as they cheered lustily back in the '90s era to increasingly boost the controversial star's ego and popularity in America's famous sport.

In fact, he changed the culture of football as we perceive the sport differently after he brought much athleticism and intense drama to the game and had risen as a virtuous legend in football today, and now, he'll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

What sets Sanders apart from past Hall of Famers are his unique exploits and psyche, an individual who had a peculiar mindset, separating him from the other legends. If hard work defines a blue-collar player, then it's obviously Sanders.

So here comes Sanders, high-stepping, flirting and accepting an honor to be enshrined into the Hall, when he really deserves the recognition for what he has accomplished on the field in his prime, back in the glory days of his gratifying career. This is the world telling Sanders thank you much for enriching the beauty of football -- for reaching a crescendo to become one of the best playmakers in football.

Sanders, appreciated more than ever these days, was the main event in his prime and he intrigued viewers. There was talk of Sanders possibly being the best cornerback ever, to write a nice story of his legacy, even when the average person was shortsighted. For all the focus on Sanders, a banner that features the likeness of former NFL great was hung Friday at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

There's no reason to believe that Sanders shouldn't be enshrined into the Hall. Before he'd catch the ball for interceptions, he'd read the play efficiently, cut off the errant pass and return it back, taunting the players giving chase behind him, then pranced and high-stepped into the end zone for a dazzling touchdown.

It isn't striking to admit, after he'd pick off passes and race toward the end zone to finish on a highlight play, that he ascended his notoriety and quickly became an all-encompassing icon everybody adored, gratified by his work ethic and enthusiasm for the game.

It would be an insult, not to mention a dreadful mistake, if Sanders wasn't voted into the Hall of Fame. There is believe it or not, as his football image enlarged, an understanding that Sanders' first-ballot induction became more certain as the years progressed.

It's almost inevitable to not applaud Sanders and downright prejudice not to acknowledge the high-stepping buffoon, the cocky imbecile who poured water on a broadcaster. Back in the era when he dominated the turf, Neon Deion had a sense of perception that he could earn celebrity if he became a clown, a trait defining his on-field personality.

He may have been a haughty clown at times, but he was loved by his teammates for giving advice and encouraging each player inside the locker room, taking on the leadership role as a modest individual off the field. If anything, he flirted with the bad ramifications and stretched the rules a bit, to see what he could possibly get away with in the game and relished making a fool out of other teams, just so he can have the last laugh.

In the meantime, as it seems inescapable to deny, he paved the way for himself by working hard to reach a pinnacle in his wondrous football career, where he was Prime Time or even the showman, wearing a do-wag and styling the faddish Jheri curl.

The precious honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, really -- is an overdue journey to Canton on Saturday, when Sanders -- at last -- will be enshrined with a respectable class that includes the likings of Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger and the late Les Richter.

In early childhood, as a 7-year-old from Fort Myers, Fla., he pledged to his mother, Connie Hicks, that he'd become rich and she'd never have to take on a laborious task. Sure enough, he made it to the professional rankings and was blessed with a gift to run fast and leap into the air, having much agility and leaping ability.

For a man who was sterling at his craft, to some, he was the best athlete ever produced from his native state. It's quite possibly acknowledgeable that he's the epilogue for achievements, even in his post-career of the weekend he'll be celebratory for a memorable induction into the Hall of Fame, an accomplishment that has punctuated a noteworthy career.

One can still recall that the Atlanta Falcons selected him with the fifth pick of the 1989 draft. Because of his dedication and brilliance, we've all seen Sanders pick off 54 passes, a number of interceptions higher than usual. Because of his craft and agility, he clearly established himself as one of the greatest playmakers and was very fun to watch regularly, scoring 23 touchdowns that resulted in individual accolades.

This is how he qualified for defensive player of the year in 1996, defining Sanders as the best defensive player of all time, presumably atop the rankings to only stand in the company of Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor. No matter what the naysayers believe, he is easily the best cornerback of the '90s era, a generation when he dominated more than any other defensive player.

We all know by now, that he'd thrive for greatness and never took a day off in practice or studying. It was too often that he'd be the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. With that in mind, he studied firm thoroughly. He even studied the coordinators, to learn their schemes.

He knew how to study a play, which made Sanders seem smarter than the next player. At Florida State, where he played in college, he followed a similar philosophy. And all the way until he retired, he routinely studied the player's footwork and hand motions, typical habits he followed to gradually improve and it worked during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys where he'd split time as a wide receiver, alongside Michael Irvin and running back Emmitt Smith.

For much of the weekend, he is the focal point of the 2011 Hall of Fame festivities, an all-purpose player and NFL custodian, finally accepted into football's most hallowed landmark. At last, he is eligible when all the hard work, devotion and talent paid off for one of football's most versatile and inspiring players.

There was much to like about Sanders, which was his swagger and even sometimes his silliness that never settled too well with many. So now, by tonight, he can finally wear something other than the brash outfits and can walk onto stage and perform his premature celebrations when he tries on his mustard jacket before thousands tonight.

By now, we should have a better understanding of Deion Sanders, an extraordinary Hall of Famer.

--Jonathan Mathis


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