9. Best college football players before Twitter: Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State
How could we not include the man nicknamed Primetime? Deion Sanders gave fans some of the most exciting punt returns in the history of college football. And like Irvin, he played for one of the most polarizing teams in the country. Deion returned interceptions and kicks and then high-stepped into our hearts — or nightmares depending on your opinion of Florida State.
The one thing sports Twitter goes nuts for, besides a disrespectful dunk, is a filthy kick return. Deion Sanders has plenty of those. If he were playing during the age of Twitter, Clemson fans would probably call him overrated. Miami fans might say he took advantage of underthrown passes. And they would absolutely voice their opinions in caps lock and exclamation points.
The reality is that Sanders looked like a wide receiver playing cornerback. He seemed to know exactly where the ball was going and he not only beat the receiver to it, he looked better doing it.
In his career, Sanders broke up 27 passes. He picked off 14, returning three for touchdowns. And if that weren’t enough, Primetime averaged 11.3 yards per punt return. In his final season in 1988, Sanders average 15.3 yards per return. That’s the kind of excitement that Twitter craves. It’s provocative. It gets the people going.
He also showed flashes of chippiness on the field, especially against Miami. That would almost certainly lead to some choice back-and-forth online. Oh the possibilities, if only the internet had come along sooner.