Friday, April 19

How Deion Sanders, the multi-sport superstar turned buzziest coach in college football, makes and spends his millions

  • Deion Sanders enjoyed remarkably successful careers in the NFL and MLB at the same time.
  • “Prime Time” is now the buzziest name in college football as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
  • The dual-sport athlete turned coach has earned millions; here’s how he makes and spends his money.

More 30 years after he dazzled the sports world as a football superstar with a not-so-insignificant side hustle at the highest levels of professional baseball, Deion “Prime Time” Sanders has returned to the spotlight as the buzziest name in college football. The Hall of Fame cornerback took over the helm of the Colorado Buffaloes ahead of the 2023 season, and he’s revitalized the struggling program like only “Coach Prime” could.

Each stage of Sanders’ sports career — as an NFL great, a part-time MLB outfielder, and an NCAA head coach—has been quite lucrative. He’s also brought in money through opportunities away from the gridiron and diamond.

Let’s take a look at how Sanders — the only man to compete in a Super Bowl and a World Series—makes and spends his millions.

Deion Sanders is one of the most impressive athletes in modern-day sports.

Deion Sanders with MLB baseball's Atlanta Braves (left) and the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.
Deion Sanders with MLB baseball’s Atlanta Braves (left) and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. 
AP Photo/Joe Holloway Jr.; Reuters Photographer

Sanders is one of very few American athletes who have excelled in more than one professional sport, and he managed the remarkable feat relatively recently.

The Fort Myers, Florida, native spent 1985 to 1988 as a three-sport college athlete for the Florida State Seminoles. From his very first year on campus, Sanders started on defense with the football team, played in the outfield with the baseball team, and was a sprinter on the track and field team.

Though he’d been drafted by Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals in 1985 — his first year at Florida State — Sanders waited until the New York Yankees selected him in the 1988 Draft to sign with a team. The following year, the two-time All-America selection for football joined the Atlanta Falcons with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Sanders spent the early 1990s playing baseball part-time for various MLB teams — most notably the Atlanta Braves.

Deion Sanders with the Atlanta Braves.
Deion Sanders with the Atlanta Braves. 
AP Photo

After spending part of a season in the minor leagues, Sanders made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Yankees in May 1989. Though he held his own in limited appearances that first year, Sanders struggled offensively in his sophomore season, leading the Yankees to waive the outfielder.

He signed a deal with the Atlanta Braves in 1991, and in his four years with the franchise, Sanders accrued a formidable .265 batting average and was a steady presence in the outfield. He even helped lead the Braves to the 1992 World Series, though they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.

He spent the latter half of the ’90s as an MLB journeyman.

Deion Sanders in the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds.
Deion Sanders in the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds. 
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Two years later, Atlanta shipped Sanders off to Cincinnati, where he spent portions of the following two seasons with the Reds. Then he spent a season with the San Francisco Giants in 1995.

After a season away from the diamond, Sanders returned to Cincinnati for the 1997 campaign. He was among the league leaders in stolen bases after surpassing 100 games in a season for the first time in his MLB career.

Still, at the end of the season, the lefty opted to focus exclusively on football for the following three years. He rejoined the Reds in 2001, but was dropped after 29 games after struggling at the plate.

Sanders tried to rebuild his baseball career in the minor leagues, but football eventually took precedence.

Deion Sanders arrives in Pittsburgh for an Atlanta Braves game after suiting up for the Atlanta Falcons in Miami earlier in the day.
Deion Sanders arrives in Pittsburgh for an Atlanta Braves game after suiting up for the Atlanta Falcons in Miami earlier in the day. 
AP Photo/Chaz Pall

Though he spent decades trying to make a career in both football and baseball — even going so far as to charter jets and helicopters to transport him from the gridiron to the diamond and vice versa — Prime Time was constantly pressured to settle into just one sport.

So in 2001, when Sanders tried to revive his professional baseball career through a stint in the minor leagues, his NFL franchise at the time insisted that language in his contract only allowed him to miss mandatory team activities for MLB play, and that commitments to a minor-league team didn’t count. Sanders was forced to choose, and to no one’s surprise, football won out.

So Sanders hung up his glove for good in the summer of 2001, citing one of his most famous quotes on his way out of the ballpark:

“Football is my wife,” he said, “and baseball is my mistress.”

Still, he made a pretty penny in baseball — especially considering he saw the sport as his side hustle.

Deion Sanders with the San Francisco Giants.
Deion Sanders with the San Francisco Giants. 
AP Photo/Hans Deryk

The early years of Sanders’ baseball career weren’t staggeringly lucrative. In fact, he didn’t even crack six figures in his first season with the Yankees. Year No. 2 in New York brought him $100,000 in salary, but his time in pinstripes came to a close in 1991 after the Yankees declined his request for a $1 million contract.

Instead, he signed with Atlanta for $660,000 in his first season and $600,000 in his second. And after an impressive 1992 campaign with the Braves, Sanders was rewarded with $3.2 million and $3.6 million the following two years.

In 1995, he raked in $3.7 million from the Reds. He earned another $1.2 million in Cincinnati two seasons later, plus an additional $200,000 when he attempted a comeback in 2001.

In all, Sanders made $13,288,347 from his various MLB contracts, according to The Baseball Cube.

But football — his self-described ‘wife’ — is really where he shaped his legacy.

Deion Sanders with the Atlanta Falcons.
Deion Sanders with the Atlanta Falcons. 
AP Photo/Lois Bernstein

Sanders made an immediate impact for the Falcons after he was drafted in 1989. He recorded 39 combined tackles and five interceptions during his rookie season at cornerback, and added 1,032 yards on kickoff and punt returns.

Over the next four years in Atlanta, Sanders averaged nearly 50 tackles and five interceptions per season. He scored a combined three touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns in that span, and in 1992, surpassed 1,000 yards on kickoff returns.

Despite Sanders’ individual success, the franchise saw limited success over his five years in Atlanta. Only once did the Falcons finish with a winning record, and in that season, they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Sanders sought out a team that could compete for a title once he became a free agent.

Deion Sanders with the San Francisco 49ers.
Deion Sanders with the San Francisco 49ers. 
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

When his rookie contract expired after the 1993 NFL season, Sanders sought to join a contender and play for his first Super Bowl ring. He landed with the San Francisco 49ers and found his way to the Big Game immediately.

Sanders earned 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording 36 tackles and six interceptions — three of which he ran back for touchdowns — on the season. He kept up that momentum in Super Bowl XXIX, grabbing a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone to help San Francisco take down the San Diego Chargers 49-26.

The newly minted Super Bowl champion became a free agent immediately after hoisting the Lombardi trophy with the 49ers. And with a Super Bowl ring securely on his finger, Sanders was able to prioritize getting paid and winning with his next team.

He and his agent embarked on the ‘Deion Sweepstakes’ to find a proper landing spot.

Deion Sanders is surrounded by members of the press.
Deion Sanders is surrounded by members of the press. 
AP Photo/Ron Heflin

By 1995, Sanders was undoubtedly among the best defensive players in the game, and he sought to get paid accordingly. Several franchises were prepared to sign hefty checks in order to court the superstar cornerback, including the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and Dallas Cowboys.

His incumbent team — the 49ers — were also willing to pay up to retain his services. But ultimately, he inked a seven-year deal with the Cowboys that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the entire NFL, according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.

Sanders could’ve commanded more money from other teams — namely the Raiders, as he wrote in his memoir “Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life” — but he still wanted his new team to contend. And contend they did.

Sanders won his second Super Bowl in as many years with the 1996 Dallas Cowboys.

Deion Sanders with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995.
Deion Sanders with the Dallas Cowboys in 1995. 
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Thanks to a knee injury and his subsequent recovery from surgery, Sanders didn’t make his Cowboys debut until Week 9 of the 1996 season. But once he got on the field in Dallas, he wasted no time making his mark.

Sanders recorded 26 tackles and a pair of interceptions over just nine games. And once again, he helped his side win the Super Bowl with top-notch performances on both sides of the ball.

Prime Time spent another four seasons in The Lone Star State, and though the Cowboys never found their way back to the Big Game, Sanders managed to earn Pro-Bowl honors in each year he played in Dallas while making his mark on offense as well as defense.

He ended his career with strong stints in Washington and Baltimore.

Deion Sanders with the Baltimore Ravens.
Deion Sanders with the Baltimore Ravens. 
REUTERS/Joe Giza JG

In 2000, at 33 years old, Sanders signed an even more massive contract than the one he’d inked with the Cowboys in 1995. But he left Washington after one season despite committing to seven years with the franchise and enjoying an above-average season.

Though he toyed with a return to the NFL in 2002, Sanders didn’t actually step back on the gridiron until two years after that, when he signed a one-year deal to join the Baltimore Ravens. He played nine games that season and nabbed three interceptions, including the 12th pick-six of his illustrious career.

Sanders signed a second one-year deal with the Ravens for what wound up being his final NFL season. He played in every game of Baltimore’s season and had solid output — particularly for a 38-year-old — but Sanders chose to retire after the Ravens once again failed to make the postseason.

As the best cornerback on the planet as well as a weapon on offense and special teams, Sanders earned some serious dough in the NFL.

Deion Sanders.
Deion Sanders. 
AP Photo/Doug Mills

History has remembered Sanders as one of the greatest football players of his generation and, arguably, the best cornerback the NFL has ever seen. A player of his caliber — especially one who could contribute on offense, defense, and special teams — was worth a whole lot to virtually any franchise that managed to earn his services.

It’s no surprise many teams paid a whole lot of money to secure his talents.

Sanders’ rookie deal with the Falcons was worth $5,225,000 for five seasons, plus a $2 million signing bonus. Once he became a free agent, he signed a slightly more lucrative $1,134,000 contract for one season with the 49ers.

After that, with a Super Bowl victory already in hand, Sanders swung for the fences. He signed a massive seven-year, $34,983,999 deal with the Cowboys that included a $11.9 million signing bonus in 1995 and, four years later, inked a new contract with Dallas for $51.5 million over five years with a $2.5 million signing bonus.

When the Cowboys waived him to free up cap space a year later, Sanders signed a similarly gargantuan deal for $56,125,000 over seven years, including $8 million due at signing. He later added another $3 million through a pair of one-year deals with the Ravens.

In all, Sanders earned $33,568,331 over 14 seasons in the NFL, according to Spotrac. And while that’s objectively a considerable amount of money, it pales in comparison to the sums star defensive players can command today.

Sanders has padded his income with an assortment of brand partnerships.

Deion Sanders in an ad for Pepsi.
Deion Sanders in an ad for Pepsi. 
Mark Davis/Getty Images for Pepsi

As a dual-sport athlete who leans into the spotlight, Prime Time was a prime candidate for sponsorships from major brands. Early in his professional tenure, Sanders inked a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike.

But years later, after a feud over appropriate compensation for the Diamond Turf shoe, Sanders and Nike parted ways. He spent years sporting Under Armour clothes and shoes, but in 2023, the newly minted Colorado Buffaloes coach patched things up with Nike and re-signed with the brand.

In addition to apparel companies, Sanders racked up sponsorships with the likes of American Family Insurance, American Express, Burger King, GMC, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Rent-A-Center, Sega, T-Mobile, and Van Heusen.

He further bolstered his reputation with forays into music and Hollywood.

Deion Sanders appears on an episode of "In the House" alongside LL Cool J (right).
Deion Sanders appears on an episode of “In the House” alongside LL Cool J (right). 
Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Even during his playing career, Sanders leveraged his talent and recognizability to work his way into popular culture. He appeared on several TV shows, including hosting “Saturday Night Live” and making a cameo on “In the House” starring LL Cool J.

Sanders also enjoyed a fairly noteworthy rap career. He dropped his first album, “Prime Time,” with MC Hammer’s Bust It Records, and it reached No. 70 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts.

After his playing days came to an end, he pursued a career as a football analyst.

Deion Sanders speaks on a broadcast with the NFL Network.
Deion Sanders speaks on a broadcast with the NFL Network. 
AP Photo/Gail Burton

Sanders joined CBS’ “The NFL Today” in the several-year gap between his stints with Washington’s football team and the Baltimore Ravens. He reportedly commanded a $1 million annual salary and, after the network refused to double that figure, decided to return to the NFL as a player.

But after he hung up his cleats for good in 2006, Sanders once again signed on for a TV gig — this time as an analyst with NFL Network. Though his salary for the role has not been confirmed, reports suggest Sanders once again left the position he had held for three years because he refused to take a pay cut.

He also hated the job and the travel it necessitated, he told The Washington Post.

“I’m not that guy,” Sanders said. “I had to be that guy [on TV] because that’s who I was on the field. When the lights are off, I’m not him. I’m in bed by 7, man.”

At the same time, Sanders worked to get some coaching experience and become ‘Coach Prime.’

Deion Sanders coaches at the 2020 Under Armour All-America Game.
Deion Sanders coaches at the 2020 Under Armour All-America Game. 
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While working as an NFL analyst and TV commentator, Sanders embarked on his coaching journey at the high school level. He started at Prime Prep Academy, the group of Texas charter schools he helped found, in the early 2010s.

When the schools shut down, Sanders took over coaching responsibilities for the football team at Dallas’ Triple A Academy. Two years after that, he became offensive coordinator for Trinity Christian High School, where he coached his sons to a state championship.

By then, Sanders’ name had started to circulate within the college coaching rumor mill. Though he was linked to his alma mater — ACC powerhouse Florida State — he instead opted to make a move very few, if any, saw coming.

In 2020, Sanders took over head coaching responsibilities for HBCU Jackson State.

Deion Sanders at Jackson State.
Deion Sanders at Jackson State. 
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of landing with one of the flashy college programs with nine-figure budgets, “Coach Prime” headed to Jackson, Mississippi, to assume the helm for the Jackson Statue University Tigers. With the murder of George Floyd catalyzing a conversation about race across the United States, Sanders said he felt a divine pull to the Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

“I could be an assistant at any college, or a head coach at any college,” Sanders said on his podcast at the time. “But at such a time as this, God called me to Jackson State, and me to these men.”

Sanders signed a four-year, $1.2 million deal — far less than what he could’ve commanded elsewhere. Then he, along with sons Shedeur and Shilo Sanders, set off for Mississippi’s capital with hopes of elevating not only Jackson State, but the entire HBCU system.

Over three years with the Tigers, Coach Prime brought attention, funding, and glory to Jackson State.

Deion Sanders at Jackson State.
Deion Sanders at Jackson State. 
AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

The Tigers played a shortened season due to COVID-19 in his first year on campus, but Sanders got to work making changes across campus right away. He helped raise funds for new athletic facilities and resources, spearheaded an effort to put players’ names on the backs of their jerseys, outfitted his team with custom suits courtesy of Michael Strahan, and successfully recruited top-ranked high school athletes — include the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022 — away from top-tier programs to bolster the HBCU renaissance he envisioned.

And this success translated to the field as well; in his first full season at the helm, Coach Prime led Jackson State to an impressive 11-2 record, a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, and a bowl game appearance. The next year, the Tigers lost just one game on the season, defended their SWAC title, and played in another bowl game.

But Sanders’ series of victories — both literal and moral — at JSU captured the attention of many other, larger programs across the country. And when the opportunity came for Sanders to assume the helm of a major team, he grabbed the Buffalo by the horns.

Coach Prime stepped into Power 5 territory when he took over the Colorado Buffaloes in 2023.

Deion Sanders is introduced as the new head coach of Colorado football.
Deion Sanders is introduced as the new head coach of Colorado football. 
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

After a transformational three years at Jackson State, Sanders felt the pull to join one of college football’s larger teams. He landed with the lowly Colorado Buffaloes, who had recorded just one full season above .500 since 2006.

But the chance to turn around a once-great program — and to sign a historic five-year, $29.5 million contract — proved too tempting to refuse. So Sanders — along with his sons and several players he had recruited to JSU — headed north to Boulder with hopes of shaking up the college football universe.

First, Sanders had to shake up the team itself; in his very first team meeting, he warned players he inherited that they should transfer if they aren’t prepared to adapt to his style of coaching. From there, Sanders and his Buffaloes were off to the races.

Sanders and company have started off hot in Colorado.

Deion Sanders with the Colorado Buffaloes.
Deion Sanders with the Colorado Buffaloes. 
John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

With one son starting as quarterback, another playing safety, and dad as coach, the Sanders family took over Colorado and brought with them a spotlight the likes of which the program hadn’t seen in decades, if ever.

Sanders’ squad lived up to the early hype. Colorado took down 2022 College Football Playoff runners-up, the then-No. 17 Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs, on the road in a 45-42 thriller for its first game of the season. The Buffaloes beat Nebraska and Colorado State to start 3-0 before losing back-to-back contests against two top-10 teams in Oregon and USC.

Still, less than a year removed from a one-win season, Colorado’s 4-3 start (the Buffaloes bounced back with a road win over Arizona State, then fell in overtime against Stanford) is something of a miracle. Sanders continues to prove to skeptics that his coaching success at JSU wasn’t a fluke, and that his aptitude for Xs and Os translates to the highest levels of college football.

Prime Time’s NCAA takeover has renewed his cultural and brand influence.

Deion Sanders coaching the Colorado Buffaloes.
Deion Sanders coaching the Colorado Buffaloes. 
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Boulder has become the place to be on Saturdays since Sanders took over Colorado’s football program. Football, basketball, and baseball Hall of Famers, famous rappers and actors, and other celebrities have flocked to the Rocky Mountains to catch a glimpse of the new-look Buffaloes.

Sanders has once again entered the mainstream, and he’s capitalizing on his renewed cultural capital. After the flashy eyewear he sports on the sidelines gained attention, he partnered with Blenders to create Prime-inspired sunglasses.

The brand sold more than $1 million of the mirrored lenses in the 24 hours after announcing the collaboration, and $5 million after a few days, per FOX Sports.

He’s also signed new endorsement deals with California Almonds, Aflac, JSX, KFC, and more.

Sanders’ net worth is estimated to be around $45 million.

Deion Sanders appears on ESPN's "College GameDay."
Deion Sanders appears on ESPN’s “College GameDay.” 
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Between his decades-long careers in MLB and the NFL, his various stints as an NFL television analyst, his rap career, his abundance of sponsorships and endorsement deals, and his blossoming collegiate coaching career, Sanders has brought in tens of millions of dollars.

Though Insider has not independently corroborated Sanders’ net worth, various sources estimate that the multi-sport legend has around $45 million to his name. And considering his massive, record-setting contract to coach Colorado, that number is likely to grow.

He’s never been shy about enjoying the finer things in life.

Deion Sanders and his girlfriend, Tracey Edmonds, attend the 2023 NFL Honors award show.
Deion Sanders and his girlfriend, Tracey Edmonds, attend the 2023 NFL Honors award show. 
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sanders has built his public persona around ostentation, and he spends much of his considerable fortune upholding that reputation.

He lives in sprawling mansions and drives luxurious, customized cars. And, of course, Prime Time dresses to the nines.

Sanders spends a pretty penny to live by his ‘look good, feel good, play good, they pay good’ mantra.

Deion Sanders wears a diamond-encrusted gold whistle and cross around his neck.
Deion Sanders wears a diamond-encrusted gold whistle and cross around his neck. 
John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Long ago, Sanders coined the iconic phrase: “If you look good, you feel good, If you feel good, you play good, If you play good, they pay good.”

He lives by that philosophy. Sanders is often seen sporting designer clothing and accessories. In fact, during his very first team meeting at Colorado, he encouraged Buffalo players to transfer because “because I’m bringing my luggage with me.”

“And it’s Louis,” he added, referring to designer brand Louis Vuitton.

Even when Sanders is patrolling the sidelines in team apparel, he wears a diamond-encrusted gold whistle and cross around his neck.

He bought a multi-million-dollar home after taking the coaching job at Colorado.

Deion Sanders stands outside of his Colorado home.
Deion Sanders stands outside of his Colorado home. 
Well Off Media/YouTube

Located a quick 30-minute drive from the University of Colorado’s campus, Sanders’ new digs boast stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and plenty of amenities fit for a sports legend.

The home has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a stunning chef’s kitchen, a theater room, a home gym, and more. And outside, visitors can go berry picking on the property or go enjoy a variety of activities on the private lake shared by members of the gated community.

Sanders also owns a sprawling estate outside of Dallas.

Deion Sanders' house in Dallas.
Deion Sanders’ house in Dallas. 
Well Off Media/YouTube

Prime Time has an even larger home in Dallas, where he spent a good chunk of his NFL career. Complete with a game room, home gym, multi-car garages, a plethora of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a sunken living room big enough to fit a pair of palm trees, the huge house supports the notion that “everything is bigger in Texas.”

Sanders drives an array of different cars, ranging from speedy coupes to customized trucks.

Some of the cars in Deion Sanders' collection.
Some of the cars in Deion Sanders’ collection. 
Well Off Media/YouTube

While it remains unclear just how many cars Sanders has, it’s safe to say he owns enough to call it a collection. From an assortment of classic cars to a series of trucks and a few luxury speedsters, Prime Time has his fair share of vehicles to choose from before making his commute each day.

Some of the regulars in his rotation include a tricked-out Smart Car complete with his former jersey number on the grill and nickname on the tires, a Ford F-350 truck, a Ford F-250 Diesel Crew Cab truck, a customized GMC Savana Explorer with heated massage seats and an HD TV, a Ford F-650 Super Truck with “PRIME” emblazoned into the grill, an all-black Cadillac Escalade, and a 911 Carrera S Cabriolet.

He’s also devotes a good amount of his fortune to philanthropic causes.

Deion Sanders attends the Do Something Awards in support of charitable causes.
Deion Sanders attends the Do Something Awards in support of charitable causes. 
ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Despite spending handsomely to maintain his opulent lifestyle, Sanders has donated considerable time, money, and resources to charitable organizations.

He founded his own nonprofit, Prime Time Association, to help underprivileged youth through educational and athletic programming. And he’s been a mentor to many young men — star athletes or otherwise.

He helped establish a string of now-defunct charter schools in the greater Dallas area. And in 2017, he teamed up with billionaire CEO Charles Koch to help give $21 million to nonprofits combatting poverty in the Dallas area through a project dubbed “Prime 5.”

While at Jackson State, Sanders paid for several upgrades to the Tigers’ facilities out of his own pocket. He’s also said that he donated half of his coaching salary back to the program itself.