Deion Sanders' Shares His Winning Take on Raising Kids in the Public Eye

Football legend Deion Sanders tells E! News why competing on camera was a perfect fit for his family—and watch the Oikos spot that puts his special bond with his kids, mom and sister to hilarious use.

By Natalie Finn Jan 31, 2023 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Deion Sanders Reveals His Core Parenting Philosophy

For Deion Sanders, family is everything.

But don't think for a second that means he wouldn't do everything in his considerable power to crush them in a friendly competition.

"My kids, my mother, my sister—all of us—we have an appetite for success and an appetite to win," the Pro Football Hall of Famer told E! News in an exclusive Zoom interview, explaining why it wasn't much of a stretch to shoot an Oikos yogurt commercial in which all of them are busily proving through various feats that "Stronger Makes Everything Better."

"We're very competitive," Sanders continued. And though making the ad, called "Family Reunion," was fun, the competition "does not stop. It's a commercial but you still want to win, the kids are still competing. Credit to Oikos to understand the dynamics of the personalities and just highlight them tremendously. To allow the kids to do what they do, to bring out the different sides of me, and to put the stamp on it with my mother was extraordinary."

That stamp being his mom Connie Knight's withering gaze, against which no tackle or table-splitting karate chop stands a chance.   

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Asked what Connie had taught him about the meaning of strength, Sanders praised his mother as a "pillar of consistency."

"You only understand your strength when you're faced with pressure," he said. "So many attributes of the word, she embodies."

The former NFL and MLB star recalled that pressure was the name of the game for his mother, who worked long hours as a hospital custodian when he was a kid, until her athletic-phenom son saw to it that she could retire.

With Connie as a role model, the 55-year-old father of five's disciplined approach to parenting took shape early on. Long before he coached his own kids in sports, he took younger sister Tracie Knight under his wing.

"I remember taking her to church when we were kids, making sure she'd sit up and don't talk or chew gum, and to do the right thing and make the proper choices in life," Sanders recalled with a smile. "And now she's helping me with everything."

courtesy of Oikos

In fact, Tracie oversees the Sanders brand, at the center of which is the two-time Super Bowl winner who was known as "Prime Time" in his playing days and who has since seamlessly made the transition to "Coach Prime" at the college level, first at Jackson State in Mississippi and, starting next season, University of Colorado.

And most of his family, including his mother and four of his kids, have joined him in Boulder.

Deion Jr., 29, who played college football for SMU, manages his dad's social media. Shilo, 22, and Shedeur, 20, played safety and quarterback, respectively, under their father at Jackson State and entered the transfer portal so they could take the field for the Buffaloes. And basketball player daughter Shelomi, 19, also transferred with her eye on joining the women's team at Colorado.

So, it wasn't that difficult to get everybody together for a commercial shoot. (Deion Jr. and his sister Deiondra, 30—who days ago announced she was headed to Paris to co-anchor an entertainment show on France's Be Black TV—weren't in the ad, but Sanders said he hopes they'll be in the next one.)

Asked what he's taught his children about handling the expectations that come from being in the public eye, both as his kids but also as athletes making a name for themselves (and, in Shedeur's case, as Storm Reid's red carpet date), Sanders said that he's impressed upon them the importance of holding up the family name.

"Strength being one of those things that can propel you or derail you, we want to make sure my kids understand they're Sanders," he explained. "It's a certain standard that we abide by—and the standard is the standard, especially out in the public eye."

They're "tough-minded," Sanders continued. "I didn't raise 'em soft, whatsoever, they've been disciplined their whole life to make the smart decisions in life, in relationships, in school, in choices that they would make with their friends. And character is everything, especially when no one is looking. That reveals, really, who you are."

Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

That being said, the Florida native isn't running a military school.

"You know, nobody's perfect," Sanders noted, taking a well-timed sip from his mug. "But I'm a present father and my kids, they're doing the best they dern can. I don't really have a headache in the family. I have some that make me sneeze every now and then, a couple of my kids, but they're not headaches."

Having played in two Super Bowls (and a World Series, still the only athlete to ever do it) and watched many as a coach, he admittedly would love to experience it as a parent. "That's what I want, I want to see one of my kids in the big game," said Sanders, whose Oikos commercial will be airing before and during Super Bowl LVII.

But first, another college football season with Shilo and Shedeur is around the corner.

"It's a family affair," Sanders said, referring to both the Oikos spot and, basically, life in general. "And I'm forever grateful for it."

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