Rison's most publicized trappin' to date came in the days leading up to Atlanta's game with the Chicago Bears on Nov. 11. Bears cornerback Lemuel Stinson, who was among the NFC interception leaders at the time, started the war of words by proclaiming Sanders "a nobody" when it came to playing corner-back. "You never see [ Sanders] putting his headgear down in there," Stinson said. "He is not a cover guy, either. He can't cover our receivers man-to-man."
When Rison read that Stinson had ripped Sanders, his closest friend on the Falcons (while Sanders is known as Prime Time, Rison is known as Showtime), he laid some serious smack on Stinson: "If it's just me and him, we'll call 38 pass plays, I'll score 38 touchdowns.... If he plays me man-to-man the whole game, I'll be in the Hall of Fame by Monday. I've got my [induction] speech ready."
As it turned out, Stinson intercepted two passes, and the Bears defeated the Falcons 30-24. Rison, who had six catches, was at fault on one of the interceptions, because he ran an outside pattern rather than an inside route. Still, he refuses to retract his pregame smack. "It's like you've got a 'no trespassing' sign in your yard, and somebody walks up anyway," Rison says. "You have to speak up when everybody is against you. We went into Soldier Field, and everybody was yelling, 'Deion sucks! Rison sucks!' What am I going to do, get down on my knee?
"Ask my friends. They'll tell you I'm a comedian. I don't throw my achievements in anybody's face. The comments I make are always funny. When I'm doing my job, I'm doing what gets Andre over. I can't think of what somebody else thinks about me. I have to worry about what's up under my helmet. A wide receiver is supposed to be skinny, not very strong, fluid and timid. I'm totally the opposite. Nobody can intimidate me."
After scoring a touchdown, Showtime breaks into a celebratory dance known as The Highlight Zone. That's the name Rison selected in September from more than 8,000 suggestions in a contest run by The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Fans have asked him to perform the duck walk in parking lots, grocery stores, shopping malls and public restrooms.
Even in his spare time Rison puts his showmanship and vocal cords to work. He and a friend, Ray (Stingray) Potter, from Lansing, Mich., are collaborating on an album they plan to release in January under the name Embrace. They work out of a bedroom in the condominium Rison rents in suburban Atlanta. Three computerized keyboards, which sit on cardboard boxes covered with beach towels, serve as their "orchestra." Rison and Potter have written lyrics for 10 ballads and 15 up-tempo songs, taped layers of melodic lines on a four-track recorder and "stacked" their voices, beginning with tenor leads and filling in baritone, alto and soprano backups.
Neither reads or writes music, but Stingray has a rich, full voice, developed through years of gospel singing. Rison's voice, on the other hand, sounds strained and flat. His previous musical experience consisted of solos in the shower. "A few months ago, he sounded like James Brown, shrieking and screaming into the microphone," says Potter. "What Andre has going for him is a passion for music. He's not Luther Vandross, but who is?"
Polished or not, Rison envisions music videos, concert tours, gold albums and shelves full of Grammys. "You just wait," he says. "When we go into the studio, I'll blow everybody away. I'm determined to make it. I'll be a star someday. M.C. Hammer—you can't touch me."
Instant success as a pro football player. Toast of the town. Aspiring recording star. Not so long ago such notions never crossed the mind of a kid who grew up wanting to be an NBA star.
Rison was the point guard on a Flint (Mich.) Northwestern High basketball team that went 55-1 and won state titles in his junior and senior seasons. He was a two-time all-state selection, and his 636 career assists remain a school record. Except for Rison, all the seniors from both championship teams accepted basketball scholarships to major colleges, and two-Jeff Grayer ( Milwaukee Bucks) and Glen Rice ( Miami Heat)—are in the NBA. Rison also played eight positions on the football team: tailback, quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, safety, cornerback, punter and placekicker. He became an all-state punter as a junior and an All-America defensive back as a senior.