Deion Sanders’ one consistent rule emerges in Colorado’s upset of TCU — Andscape
FORT WORTH, Texas — Nearly an hour after his unranked Colorado Buffaloes pulled off the first major upset of the college football season, head coach Deion Sanders walked into the interview area. His “walk-in music” was the trash talking that would set the tone for a 25-minute session with reporters.
“I’ve got receipts, I got all my receipts,” Sanders said as if speaking to himself, but loudly enough for reporters to hear. “Should I pull out my receipts right now?” he asked as he settled in his chair after Colorado defeated 17th ranked TCU 45-42.
The receipts were mental dossiers he had compiled on members of the media who had doubted whether Sanders would be able to duplicate at Colorado the success he enjoyed at Jackson State, where he led the Tigers to back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. The narrative in Sanders’ mind, and probably in fact, is that these doubters and other critics felt he had succeeded against inferior Black college teams — that he was all glitz and no substance and would be eaten alive (beginning Saturday) by superior coaching minds on the grand stage of Power 5 football. Not only that, but Sanders — like so many Black coaches who finally got an opportunity in the Football Bowl Subdivision — walked into a Colorado football program that had not seen success in decades.
So, after his stunning victory over TCU on Saturday, Coach Prime was ready to go after “non-believers” real and imagined.
When one reporter pointed out that Sanders’ son, Shedeur, had broken a Colorado passing record, Sanders interrupted. “For real? Shedeur Sanders? From an HBCU? The one that played at Jackson last year. The one who you asked me ‘Why would I give him the starting job?” Sanders put the reporter on the defensive, before finally answering the question.
His son had been great, just as he’d been great at Jackson State for two seasons against supposedly mediocre competition. Shedeur shredded the TCU defense as he had shredded SWAC defenses: 47 attempts, 38 completions, 510 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions.
A reporter asked Sanders about Travis Hunter, the sensational sophomore who played on offense as a wider receiver and on defense as cornerback. The reporter wondered whether Sanders thought Hunter could keep up the pace.
“Can he?” Sanders said. “I tried to tell you, but you didn’t want to believe me because I’m just a lofty young coach, I don’t know nothing about football. I just played in the NFL for 14 years, played at a high level in college before and been coaching youth all the way up for a long time.”
Hunter did to TCU what he had done to SWAC opponents. He had an interception on defense and dropped a second. On offense he caught 11 passes — many of them in clutch, drive-sustaining situations — for 119 yards.
”Travis is him, as the young folks say,” Sanders said. “Travis is it.”
Sanders was asked about his use of the transfer portal, specifically, what did he say to critics about how he used the portal to completely transform his team. Colorado entered the season with a record 86 new players, the most turnover for an FBS program since the transfer portal was established.
“We’re going to continuously be questioned because we do things that have never been done,” Sanders said. “That’s the way our life has presented itself.”
He went beyond the portal.
“We do things that have never been done and that makes people uncomfortable,” he said. “When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75 percent African Americans in the locker room, that’s kind of threatening. Oh, they don’t like that? Guess what? We’re going to consistently do what we do, because I’m here and ain’t going nowhere.”
Hopefully not. Sanders adds much-needed color to the often-staid world of big-time college football coaching, which has largely kept African Americans on the outside when it comes to head coaching jobs. At the same time, the industry relies heavily on Black athletes to fill stadiums, attract lucrative television contracts and pay those coaches hefty salaries. In many ways, the profession at this level has become welfare for white coaches and Sanders is attempting to crash the party.
The question is if Sanders succeeds at Colorado, will other talented HBCU head coaches get the opportunity?
This was not the theme of Sanders’ postgame news conference on Saturday. The theme on Saturday was Us Against the World, with Sanders calling out those who he felt doubted he could turn around a Colorado program that has been largely unsuccessful over the last couple of decades.
The Buffaloes finished 1-11 last season while TCU reached the national championship game. TCU was favored by 21 points on Saturday.
“What we accomplished out there today, ain’t none of y’all believed that,” Sanders said. “I’m a winner. We’re going to end up winning. Ain’t none of y’all thought you was going to be sitting up here. You was supposed to be on the other side, interviewing them, coming and asking me ’What happened? You said this and you said that.’
“Now what?” he continued. “Now what? Everybody’s quiet now.”
Later, Sanders interrupted another reporter as he attempted to ask a question. “Do you believe now?” Sanders asked the reporter, who he apparently knew.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on. Oh, no. Do you believe now?” Sanders insisted, rapping on the table. ”Do you believe now?” The reporter attempted to explain. “Oh, no, no no. I read through that bull junk you wrote. I read through that; I sifted through all that.”
The reporter asked, “Can I ask my question?”
“Do you believe?” Sanders repeated.
“Believe what?” the reporter asked.
“You don’t believe,” Sanders said. “Next question.”
A significant part of Sanders’ story is how he has endured pain over the last three seasons, beginning at Jackson State, and continued to persevere.
Sanders has had 12 operations since 2021 to repair circulation issues on his legs and has had two toes amputated. A reporter asked how he came out of Saturday’s game after spending four hours on his feet.
“Not good,” he said. “Not good but I’m thankful that God game me what I needed to finish.”
As the press conference ended, I asked Sanders if this would be the tone of the season, bringing receipts into the postgame news conferences, defying so-called doubters and carrying the ever-present chip on the shoulder.
“I’m not vindictive like that,” he said. “I just like them to know that I know that you really ain’t with me. You really ain’t with us, you really don’t believe us. You really don’t want to see me win. You don’t want to see me in victory or at peace and have joy. I know you don’t want to see that.”
On the way out of the stadium Saturday, I shared an elevator with Sanders, Hunter and a few other members of the Colorado staff. “They didn’t expect this,” Sanders said, staring straight ahead.
Agreed. He was referring, I assumed, to the doubters who wonder if he will be successful at Colorado.
Do I believe that Colorado will go undefeated? Probably not. Do I believe that the program is on the way back?
Over the years and with each new chapter of the Deion Sanders playbook, the only consistent rule is to expect the unexpected.