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November 21, 2012Sports fans are very familiar with Deion Sanders, the NFL Hall of Famer. But on Tuesday, it was a great day for Deion Sanders, the father.
Sanders' eldest son, Deion Sanders Jr., committed to SMU.
"It's a great thing," Sanders said on Tuesday night. "It's truly a blessed Thanksgiving."
Upon graduating from Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus last spring, Sanders Jr. did not go straight to a Division I program. He opted to take the prep school route, and this fall Sanders Jr. has been attending Atlanta Sports Academy.
"We looked at several different prep schools," Sanders said. "Junior is a good kid. He's never drank and has never smoked. Some of those other academics were stricter, and Atlanta was my old stomping grounds. His mother is familiar with the city, and my daughter is there in college as well. We visited the campus and liked what we saw, and it was just a good experience."
The time spent at Atlanta Sports Academy also was so that Sanders Jr. could get more reps at one of his natural positions, cornerback. Sanders Jr. was quarterback his junior year of high school and only got to play defensive back his senior season.
Sanders is proud of his son for continuing to chase the dream of football after not signing with a Division I program last February.
"We have the same last name, and that cripples peoples' perception sometimes. But I wanted him to work his butt off and earn it, and that's what he did. He never looked at me to give him a pass. I'm probably his toughest trainer and his toughest coach. We work out together all the time, and I stayed on his butt. He got a taste of being away from home this fall, which I loved."
Now, Sanders Jr. is headed back to the Metroplex to play football in front of his friends and family. With interest from UCF, South Florida and Rutgers, it was Tuesday morning when Sanders Jr. received his first D-I offer of the fall.
"Coach Phillips and Coach Jones called me," Sanders Jr. said. "They extended an offer, and I committed to SMU on the spot. It feels great knowing my hard work paid off and I am a part of this great program."
It didn't take much for Sanders to be convinced that SMU would be a perfect fit for his son. SMU head coach June Jones was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons -- the team that drafted Sanders -- in the early 1990s.
"June Jones is one of the best football coaches that I've ever played for," Sanders said. "If I'm going to entrust my son in anyone's hands, you couldn't get a better person. Forget the coaching, he's a man that cares about kids' education and a man that will fight for kids at his college and will leave if they're not treated fairly."
SMU wide receivers coach Jason Phillips -- one of Sanders' teammates in Atlanta -- is so close to Sanders that he was mentioned in his NFL Hall of Fame speech in Canton, Ohio, two summers ago.
"One of the reasons I perform the way I do is because I had someone who I could go against on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and didn't let up. That's Jason Phillips," Sanders said. "I know how he works, prepares and coaches. He did it at Houston and everywhere he's gone. I know the recruiter and the father he is."
Sanders Jr. has talents as a cornerback and kick returner, but he will begin concentrating on the wide receiver position once he arrives on the Hilltop in January. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound prospect will have five years to play four.