By Ted Fleming
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest who ever pulled on the pads, but he was also jokingly characterized as the only defensive back to go to Canton having never made a tackle.
Deion Sanders played baseball and football for a total of 10 teams–five in each sport–and if there was anything that people will remember about him, it the way he would turn an interception into pure entertainment. Primetime was his moniker and you can still see him splashed all over the television screen in those hilarious commercials for DirecTV.
Maybe it is an extension of his football personality, but in those spots you can see Sanders as a flying pixie, flittering around selling the outlet’s NFL Sunday Ticket. He was a lot like that on the gridiron – light on his feet, great hands and a nose for the football.. Those hands were also supposed to be used to tackle people, yet he treated them as if they were insured by Lloyd’s of London.
The Legend of Deion Sanders turned the NFL into the AHL, as in the ‘All Hit League’ effectively making the word “tackle” obsolete. It has become such an epidemic on the professional level it has filtered down to the college ranks and yes, the high school level too. You have to look no further than your local 11-o’clock Friday night sports segment to see it on full display.
Venus de Milo has become the patron saint of football as the use of the body has replaced the use of the hands. Tackling fundamentals are nonexistent and playing defense has been bastardized to the point where the NFL is full of lawn darts. It is no longer important to just bring a ball carrier down, getting in the proverbial “kill shot” before the self-aggrandizing celebration over their fallen prey has become the norm rather than the aberration.
Those big hits may make the highlight films but not everyone subscribes to the Deion Sanders football school and he plays right here in Charlotte.
Luke Kuechly is a linebacker with the Panthers and all he does is play the game–not with a reckless abandon, but with smarts and a desire to be around the NFL for a long time. The 21-year old rookie is a graduate of Football 101 and has drawn glowing reviews from television analysts like former Dallas Cowboys fullback and current FOX game color man Daryl Johnston, who knows a thing or two about tackling. He was brought down over a thousand times in his NFL career.
The former Boston College star made 191 of his 532 career tackles making him is the NCAA’s all-time leader in that department, and he did it without playing his senior year. Kuechly is a star in the making because his game motor is always in high gear and is sound fundamentally. He doesn’t need to drop his head in order to drop his opponent so he is less prone to concussions and other injuries that occur by throwing his body at someone.
Kuechly is a bit of a throwback, and that is a good thing for the NFL. And the Carolina Panthers.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.