Three former Yankees who also played in the NFL

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Mar 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jake Cave (93) hat glove and ball rests near the clubhouse during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Jake Cave (93) hat glove and ball rests near the clubhouse during spring training workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Few players can consider themselves part of both MLB and NFL history. A trio of former New York Yankees is among those on that shortlist.

Much of the sports world’s attention has centered on the NFL Draft in recent days, with the league’s virtual first round reportedly setting ratings records. The MLB Draft has never drawn quite the same fanfare and attention as it’s NFL counterpart. The two entities are different in many ways — both from how deep the drafts are to how immediately new players see the field and make an impact. It’s hard to compare the two, as they are really different worlds.

While there are no obvious dual-sport candidates in this year’s draft, the subject was at the center of things a year ago when Kyler Murray went to the Arizona Cardinals with the first overall selection. The former Oakland A’s draft pick passed on a possible MLB career to play on the gridiron.

Numerous players have been drafted in both sports (Dave Winfield, John Elway, and others) but few have actually played games in both. There are three players who appeared in both MLB and NFL games with ties to the Yankees.

Bo Jackson, Yankees draft pick 1982

Bo Jackson is remembered for a lot of things but being a Yankee isn’t one of them. He had memorable moments in Yankees Stadium, but never wore the pinstripes. His MLB career spanned 694 games with the Royals, White Sox, and Angels.

Jackson was drafted by the Yankees, however, in the second round in 1982. David Wells first joined the Blue Jays at the top of the round. Both Barry Bonds (by the Giants) and Barry Larkin (Reds) were also drafted in the round out of high school but didn’t sign.

Jackson, then a high school shortstop, didn’t sign and instead attended Auburn University. The rest is history. He’d star on the diamond and the football field. He looked on track to have a phenomenal career in both sports before injuries took their toll.

Drew Henson, Yankees, 2002-2003

There were high hopes when the Yankees drafted Drew Henson in 1998 in the third round. He seemed like a player who could stick at third base long term and hit for high contact. Most prospect analysts bought into his potential, too. Henson ranked among Baseball America’s Top 100 for four consecutive seasons, topping out at #9 overall before the 2002 season.

Henson stuck at third without much issue. He wasn’t a great defender but wasn’t a liability in the field either. Offensively, however, things shut down once Henson reached Triple-A. The contact and on-base abilities couldn’t keep pace with better opposing pitching. The power numbers ticked up, but it wasn’t enough.

Henson received two brief stints in New York — three games in 2002 and five more in 2003. All told he received nine plate appearances in the majors, recording just a lone single.

Henson retired following the 2003 season, entered the NFL Draft (he had shared quarterback duties at Michigan with Tom Brady in college), and ended up playing in nine games for the Cowboys and Lions before calling it a career.

Deion Sanders, Yankees, 1989-1990

Most sports fans are familiar with Neon Deion Sanders. The eclectic speedster was dynamic on the baseball diamond and electric on the football field. His personality was as big as the results he put up. His place in the NFL Hall of Fame was earned through hard work.

Sanders was initially drafted out of high school by the Royals in 1985 but he elected to attend Florida State University instead. By the time he re-entered the MLB Draft in 1988, most teams knew he was destined for an NFL career and were hesitant to select him but the Yankees took the chance in the 30th round.

Sanders would appear in 641 MLB games in his career with the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and Giants. He had his own memorable moments at Yankee Stadium.

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It is a challenge for any player to reach the highest level of their sport. It’s a huge ask to think someone can do it in two. Few are in this dual-sport club and it may be some time before we see anyone new join them.

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