Deion Sanders paused and looked out at a crowd of mostly unfamiliar faces. The gregarious football legend said he wasn’t at a loss for words, he was just trying to seize the moment.
Wearing a big grin and a new set of colors, Sanders thanked God as he was introduced Sunday as the new head football coach at the University of Colorado.
“Don’t you ever tell me where God ain’t,” Sanders said. “Don’t you ever tell me His limits. Don’t you ever tell me what you’re up against and what you can’t do.
“Out of all the persons in the world, God chose me. For that, I thank Him. For that, I love Him. For that, I magnify Him. For that, I glorify Him. For that, I praise Him. For that, I owe Him. Each and every day, I’m trying to please Him.”
Sanders will have his work cut out for him at Colorado, as he takes over a program in a Power Five conference that went 1-11 this season and fired its head coach in October. But he showed in his previous position as head coach at Jackson State (Jackson, Mississippi) that he’s already capable of landing big-name recruits.
Travis Hunter, a five-star wide receiver and cornerback who was the No. 1 player in the country according to recruiting service 247 Sports, committed to play for Sanders at Jackson State over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Auburn and Clemson.
“There were a number of highly-qualified and impressive candidates interested in becoming the next head football coach at Colorado, but none of them had the pedigree, the knowledge and the ability to connect with student-athletes like Deion Sanders,” said Colorado athletic director Rick George in a statement. “Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character.”
Sanders is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is widely considered one of the best athletes of his generation, as he played 14 seasons in the NFL and nine seasons in MLB. In eight of those years, he played both sports in the same calendar year.
He burst onto the college football coaching scene in 2020 when he was hired as the head coach at Jackson State, a Football Championship Subdivision program. He became an outspoken advocate of JSU and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and he backed it up by winning on the field. In three seasons at Jackson State, Sanders compiled a 27-5 record and won back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.
The 43-24 win over Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) on Saturday capped a 12-0 season for JSU. A date in the Celebration Bowl versus North Carolina Central is up next on Dec. 17, a game in which Sanders has said he plans to still coach.
“We still have unfinished business to do at Jackson State,” he told Colorado players in his first meeting with the team. “Because whatever I start, I’m going to finish. We’ve got to go win this championship. We’re going to do that. But then, shortly thereafter, I just want you to know, I’m coming.”
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) December 4, 2022
Despite his immense success in both football and baseball, Sanders was apparently going through a dark season of life in 1997, when his marriage to his first wife, Carolyn Chambers, the mother of his two oldest children, was ending. In his autobiography, “Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life,” which released in 1999, Sanders detailed how he attempted suicide by driving his car off of a cliff.
“I was going through the trials and tribulations of life. I was pretty much running on fumes,” he told Andscape in 2018. “I was empty, no peace, no joy. Losing hope with the progression of everything.”
He survived what he estimated to be about a 30- to 40-foot drop without any major injuries.
“I finally just got on my knees and gave it all to the Lord,” Sanders told Andscape. “Slowly, but surely, I had to deal with my faith, deal with my strength. I had to get a lot of Word in so that I could fight off the enemy. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my faith.”
He started reading the Bible and sought counsel from Bishop T.D. Jakes. In 2021, Sanders had to amputate two toes on his left foot after he was diagnosed with blood clots following a surgical procedure. He reportedly spent weeks in the hospital afterward. He said the experience, though dire at times, showed him more about God.
The 55-year-old will now head to Boulder for his first shot at a big-time coaching gig. Whether he succeeds or fails, his perspective on sports has been changed by his faith.
“I don’t believe you can be at your optimum without your faith,” Sanders told Andscape. “Sports is sports, it’s a game. My faith is everything. It’s the gas that propels the courage, the truth, keeps me going. It’s the wind, it’s the wings, it’s the air that pumps into my lungs, that provokes me to live. Faith is everything.”
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