Kyler Murray is capturing the nation’s attention with his pro potential in both baseball and football, but 30 years ago, it was Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders who were excelling on both the baseball field and football gridiron. Bo accomplished the feat first, spurning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign with the Royals, making his MLB debut in 1987 before signing with the Raiders as a “hobby.”
But Deion Sanders could have been in the same organization as Bo. Deion was drafted by the Royals out of high school in the sixth round of the 1985 draft (they were drafting better football players than the Chiefs in those days!)
In a recent interview with The Players Tribune, Deion talks about how he grew up right by the spring training home of the Royals in Fort Myers, Florida, and used to get autographed baseballs from Royals players to sell. Over the years he developed a rapport with players and even manager Dick Howser, who was a Florida State grad. It was Howser who convinced Deion that if he was good enough to get drafted out of high school, he would be good enough to be drafted out of college.
Sanders, like Bo, would go to college and play football, baseball, and run track. At Florida State, Sanders started in the outfield his freshman year for the fifth-ranked team in the country, while also playing cornerback for their top-ranked football squad. He was a standout base-stealer for the Seminoles, and was drafted by the Yankees in the 30th round of the 1988 draft. He was a three-time All-American in football, getting drafted fifth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1989.
Sanders would enjoy a nine-year MLB career with the Yankees, Braves, Giants, and Reds, and became the first person ever to play in both an NFL game and a MLB game in the same day. He often said that while football was his wife, baseball was his “mistress.” He never played for the Royals, but it is fun to imagine Bo and Deion, running down flyballs in the Royals Stadium outfield, and wreaking havoc on the bases.
Hat tip to rtb_kc for finding this interview.