Season 1 Episode 6
NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders travels with Bear to face his toughest opponent yet: the cliffs of the desert southwest...[button color="red" size="small" link="http://www.nbc.com/running-wild-with-bear-grylls" target="blank" ]Official Site[/button]
There's no question Deion Sanders is tough. As an NFL Hall of Fame cornerback and kick returner, he faced life-threatening shots to his body Sunday after Sunday. As a major league baseball player, he stood strong as 95-mile-per-hour fastballs whizzed past his face. His speed, athleticism and his mental and physical toughness took him to the pinnacle of his profession. But today he faces another pinnacle - one that terrifies him: the mountains of the desert southwest.
At a helipad in southern Utah, Deion watches Bear swoop in low on the skids of a helicopter and land on a grassy pad. Bear tells him to grab his pack, keep his head down and hop aboard. Deion's reluctant. He confesses his experience on a helicopter was the day he played an NFL game in Miami, then flew to Atlanta to suit up for a game in baseball's National League Championship Series game that night.
Deion's setting out with Bear because he wants his children to know he's not "soft." His days as a hard-hitting cornerback were over before his kids could see him play. Now he's determined to prove to them (and himself) that he can face any challenge. Good enough. Their mission includes a trek through winding slot canyons, a trek across exposed desert and then a climb up a 6,000-foot red rock peak.
Though Deion is in great shape, he's not exactly an outdoorsman. From the start, the prospect of snakes, cliffs and wild animals has him uneasy. But Bear assures him it'll be a wonderful trip and off they go. The slot canyons test Deion's balance, sure-footedness and courage and it's quickly apparent that Deion has a not unnatural fear of heights. As they make their way along crumbling walls and into watery canyons, the NFL great's fears grow. Has he gotten in over his head?
But just as Deion thinks he's got a grip on the trip, Bear spots a slithering choice for dinner: a lengthy King snake. Deion's petrified. Even though Bear assures him the snake is nonpoisonous, Deion won't come near it; he'd rather starve tonight than approach a snake. Even Bear can't coax Deion to help trap and kill the snake. Finally Bear has the snake under his foot and dispatches the animal with a rapid flick of a knife. He picks up the dead but still writhing reptile to show it to Deion – who immediately bolts. Suddenly Bear is chasing Deion with the snake, but there's no chance he'll catch the former cornerback; in college Deion was clocked in the 40-yard dash at a little over four seconds. "What kind of man chases another man with a snake?" Deion asks in disbelief.
The guys continue, making their way through the canyon country and encountering a series of steep downhill slopes. Bear teaches Deion the art of rappelling. Safely on the ground, Deion finds a new confidence. "You don't know how scared I was," he tells Bear.
Later, at their campsite, the men share stories of fatherhood and Deion opens up about the crisis in his life, a time when seemingly unlimited power, money and sex were just empty spoils of a successful life. He ultimately lost his marriage and children, contemplated suicide and finally ended up in a car wreck. He explains it was at that point he realized he had nowhere to go and gave himself up to the Lord - and has remained a man of faith ever since. The two men talk long into the night.
The next day the stakes are raised more than a little bit. Bear takes them to the base of classic southwestern peak, one that rises thousands of feet above them. It's an imposing and arduous climb and clearly one filled with danger. The men begin the hike, wearing harnesses and relying on ropes for safety. They make steady progress, but as they near the pinnacle Deion hits a wall: he's simply too terrified to climb the sheer cliff above him.
Bear explains the summit is not far off, but Deion is petrified. Bear wisely gives him his space. Like the athlete he is, Deion considers his opponent, looking for courage from within, a guiding spirit to take him to the top. He relies on his faith to compel him to continue and soon enough Deion and Bear are approaching the summit.
But there's one remaining chasm to cross, one with tremendous drop off below. Bear ropes Deion to himself and leaps across, encouraging Deion to follow him. But again Deion is stuck. Bear calmly encourages him, instructing him to look at his takeoff point and his landing point for the jump - but not to look down below. "I call it a leap of faith," Bear tells him. Again Deion composes himself, summoning a higher power. And in an instant he takes his leap of faith, landing safely on the opposite side where he's grabbed by Bear.
The pair quickly makes the summit, enjoy a magnificent view and then make their way down to the exfiltration point and the chopper below. It's been a life-changing journey for the athlete once known as "Neon Deion," a crucible that's helped him rediscover his inner strength and courage.