Great expectations go hand-in-hand with the name Deion Sanders Jr.
The son of former pro football and baseball star Deion Sanders Sr. is preparing to fulfill those expectations in the fall as the starting quarterback for the powerful Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) football team.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pounder was used as a backup wide receiver and he also returned punts and kickoffs as a sophomore at Cedar Hill (Texas). It’s an entirely new ball game now, however, since he has transferred to Marcus, which already was returning a pair of Division I tailbacks to spearhead an explosive, pro-style offense.
"After he enrolled (in January), I just plugged him in," Marcus coach Bryan Erwin said. "We didn’t have a returning starter at quarterback and he said he wanted to try quarterback. In spring practice he emerged as the leading candidate (from six players).
"He’s very, very coachable and conscientious running our offense and developing quarterback skills. He’s very humble and has the desire to be the best he can be. He has great feet and is very quick, and he has a knack of taking care of the football. He’s more of a runner and he’s going to make plays with his feet more than his arm.
"He adds a dimension that we haven’t had for the past few years."
Once he got used to the Marauders’ strenuous conditioning program, Sanders has thrived.
"I found that very difficult," he admitted. "I got used to it very quickly. It’s a tough school and a tough program."
Sanders, who grew up in the Flower Mound area and did play some quarterback as a youngster, said confidently, "I’m an athlete. I can play whatever position is needed. I have played quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback. I can play center if that’s what they need.
"I really wanted to play quarterback. The spring went very well and I learned a lot. (Learning) the plays was the hardest. Also, our coaches are very mechanical. Athletic ability only takes you so far. (It was hard) getting my elbow to zero. Your elbow has to be straight when you throw."
Though his parents are divorced, Deion Jr. says his father, who lives about 30 miles from Flower Mound, "is very much involved in my football and life overall. He comes to all my practices and games."
Asked about the pressure of having a famous father, he replied, "Football is really not pressure. Pressure is really a single mom trying to feed her kids. It’s just a game and (pressure) always is going to be there."
Meanwhile, father and son work out constantly under the steaming hot Texas sun, preparing for the son’s breakout junior year.
Deion Sr. says that ever since his son was born, he has told him, "You don’t have to be the best, but you’ve got to work the hardest. He was unique. I was returning punts for the Cowboys and I could see his little head (intently watching) up against the window. During practice, he’d go to another field and have his own game. He always adored the game and always wanted to be the best."
Deion Jr.’s mother, Carolyn Chambers, recalled that drive to be the best showing up even as a youngster in his first year of Pop Warner football. He had been used to scoring four or five touchdowns often in flag football, but in his first game with pads, she said, "He came off the field crying and said, ‘I only made my mommy two touchdowns. I don’t want my mommy to be mad at me.’ "
The father is strict and taught the son long ago "what it takes to train to be the best. We hit it pretty hard in the summer. We do two-a-days and he never complains. For every minute he’s late he has to run a lap. He understands that. We do conditioning in the morning and field work in the afternoon. We’ll probably only do one session now because they do a lot of conditioning in the morning."
Deion Sr. has no doubt his son will get the job done this fall at quarterback.
"He’s a good athlete and he’s going to make some plays because he has that itch with the ball in his hands," the former pro star said. "A lot of guys can throw the ball, but he’s a playmaker.
"One of the best things I’ve seen him do was during a scrimmage a couple weeks ago. He was 6 for 6, but he came off the field and congratulated each of his linemen. It shows maturation, just leading the guys."
Deion Sr. also "is thankful that he has run across two great high school coaches (Erwin and Cedar Hill’s Joey McGuire). They have study halls (at Marcus) and stay on the kids about their grades. That’s what I love."
Deion Jr. lists his goals as "making the playoffs, hopefully the state. And being the best quarterback Marcus ever has had."
His mother points out, "He has the instincts of his dad to go above and beyond and to be the best."
Deion Sr. says simply, "He’s going to be something special, whether sports or life will propel him."
The outstanding Marcus Marauder football website has a ticking clock – a second-by-second countdown to the first game in August. It won’t be long until Deion Jr. steps confidently into a very big spotlight.