words // Brandon Richard

We’re just a little over a week away from NFL Kickoff 2011, which is set to take place next Thursday. In a matchup between the league’s last two Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Greg Jennings and the Green Bay Packers. That game will only mark the beginning of a loaded Week 1, which concludes with a Monday Night double-header.

It’s hard to believe that it was 15 years ago when the Dallas Cowboys entered the 1996 season as the defending Super Bowl Champions. With an offense led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin (aka “The Triplets”), the ‘Boys were one of the most exciting teams to ever suit up on Sunday. What made the ’96 Cowboys even more special was their ability to match that excitement on the defensive side of the ball, mostly because of shutdown cornerback and 2011 Hall of Famer “Prime Time” Deion Sanders.

For the ’96 season, Deion was laced with the fourth shoe in his famous Nike Diamond Turf series, the Air D.T. 4 Max. Styled in Cowboy colors, the turf trainer featured a full-grain leather build, midfoot support strap and visible Max Air 2 unit in the heel. There was also Dallas inspiration packed into the design, like star detailing on the tongue and outsole.

In that same season, a running back by the name of Barry Sanders won his third NFL rushing title, leading the league with more than 1,500 yards. On his feet was the Nike Air Zoom Turf, one of the first nubbed football shoes that had cross-over appeal with sneaker enthusiasts. What made the shoes awesome at the time, aside from an outstanding design, was the fact that everybody thought they could make Barry Sanders-like cuts if they wore nubbed trainers like he did. It’s now 2011, and we still haven’t seen anybody make cuts like Barry did. It never hurt anybody to dream, though.

We can only hope the 2011 NFL season brings us as many memories as 1996 did. What do you remember most about what happened on the field in 1996?