Josh Kendall

Deion Sanders, DT Cromer see friendship come full circle with Gamecock connection

D.T. Cromer has put up Deion Sanders in his house, and now he can extend the same offer to Sanders’ son Shilo thanks to South Carolina football.

Cromer, who played baseball at Lexington High School and then USC, and Deion Sanders were teammates with the Cincinnati Reds in 2001. It was the last season of Major League Baseball for each, but it started a friendship between the two that came full circle this year when Shilo Sanders signed to play defensive back for the Gamecocks.

That means Shilo Sanders and Cromer’s daughter Ashlyn Cromer will both be in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturdays this fall. Ashlyn is a sophomore cheerleader for the Gamecocks. It won’t be the first time she and Shilo been around each other.

That was 18 years ago, when their parents were friends and traveling partners.

“Life is crazy to think that 18 years have passed and our kids used to play together,” D.T. said. “Our wives ended up getting to be pretty close and they went to games together. I can remember at some point Ashlyn and Shilo in their car seats next to each other with the wives going on a road trip.”

When Cromer saw that Shilo , who played high school football in Cedar Hill, Texas, was considering playing football at South Carolina, he reached out to his old teammate.

“When he committed, I sent him a text and said I still had the room ready for him if he wanted to come by,” Cromer said.

That’s a reference to a night Cromer picked Sanders up late at the airport in Cincinnati and let him crash at his house.

“He always brings up a funny story that I made him sleep on my couch in my apartment. He said, ‘Crom Daddy put me on the couch and fed me,’ ” Cromer said, “but I don’t think we put him on the couch. I think we put him in the guest bedroom.”

Either way, Cromer has now extended the offer to Shilo, who enrolled at South Carolina ahead of this summer. On May 14, Cromer gave Shilo a ride to South Carolina’s final home baseball game.

Deion Sanders and D.T. Cromer Courtesy photo

“He reached out and texted me so I went by and picked him up and his roommates up,” Cromer said. “I think he has interest in eventually trying to play baseball here so he was excited to go see the baseball field, and it was the first time (Shilo and Ashlyn) got to catch up so it was a lot of fun.”

Deion Sanders could not be reached for comment, but he did tweet a picture of his son and Ashlyn Cromer, calling D.T. Cromer “my dear friend and former teammate.”

“I knew we played when we were little and my parents would hang out together,” Ashlyn Cromer said.

Ashlyn and Shilo talked last season in Williams-Brice during Sanders’ official visit to South Carolina.

“He was asking a bunch of questions about Carolina and classes,” Ashlyn said. “I didn’t know where he was going to choose so I was staying neutral through the whole process, but I told him I’d always show him around if I told him I’m always there for him and I’ll show him around if I ever need to and introduce him to all my friends.”

Shilo was an Under Armour All-American at Trinity Christian High School, where he had five interceptions, 199 receiving yards and two kickoff returns for touchdowns as a senior. He could not comment for this article because USC football freshmen aren’t allowed to do media interviews.

“He says he loves it here so much,” Ashlyn said. “I asked him if he was getting homesick, and he said, ‘No, I love it here.’ He doesn’t ever want to leave.”

Having a support system already in place has helped. The USC connection will grow by one next year because D.T.’s son David will join the Gamecocks baseball team.

“I am happy that I am here because Deion knows he has a good friend here that if Shilo needs anything he can reach out,” D.T. Cromer said. “He knows he’s got somebody here to help look out for him. It’s just neat.”

D.T. Cromer and Deion Sanders, who was famous for his two-sport success and flashy nicknames like Prime Time and Neon Deion, struck up a friendship almost accidentally.

“One day, I was sitting on the bus and had a seat beside me and he sat down beside me and started talking. It was kind of surreal. From that point, we just kind of hit it off,” Cromer said. “He’s probably one of the best good people I have met in my life. He’s Prime Time, but as a teammate and a friend they don’t come any better. Anybody who will get to meet him will be blessed. If there is a Hall of Fame of people, in God’s eyes he is in it.”

Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.