FORT WORTH, Texas — Before he even entered the press conference room, Deion Sanders’ voice rang out from the corridor in TCU’s football stadium.
Deion arrived with receipts, he said. All. Mileage receipts. He loves them all and he has them all. He won’t forget them either.
Not literally, of course. Coach Prime doesn’t carry flimsy white notes that the cashiers hand out. The receipts he carries are from the doubters.
And, whoa boy, before his Colorado Buffaloes marched into Fort Worth and stunned No. 17 TCU, 45-42, there were doubters. Many of them.
“I keep the receipts,” he snapped.
He saw something you wrote, he snapped at a writer, before moving on to the next question. Oh, he said to another, will you ask him about his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, and pass his record-breaking 510 yards?
Shedeur Sanders? From the HBCU?” he interrupted, looking out from under his white hat, a gold chain hanging from his white hoodie. “The one who played in Jackson last year? The one you asked me why I should give him the runway? Wasn’t that you?”
When he talked about Colorado’s receivers this offseason, none of us believed him, he said. What have they done? Four of them had 100 yards – another school record.
None of us believed in his team, he said, a group that entered this game as an underdog with three touchdowns.
Nobody believed because of course we didn’t believe. Why should we? Colorado had won one game in its last twelve games, had not recorded a top-20 road win since 2002, and was led by a freshman FBS coach who had orchestrated the most unprecedented offseason overhaul in college football history: 70 new scholarship entrants, nine scholarship entrants.
So no, we didn’t believe it.
“I talked about it and talked about it, but you didn’t believe me,” he said. “We’ve got some guys who should be front runners for the Heisman right now.”
Oh, he’s certainly right about that.
Shedeur Sanders, the son of Deion, threw four touchdowns on his way to his school record in a 38-for-47 game with masterful precision. Travis Hunter, the former No. 1 recruit who left Deion from Florida State two years ago, played 129 snaps in a two-way spectacle of a performance in 90-degree heat. At cornerback, he got a goal-line interception and a pass break in the fourth quarter. At receiver, he caught 11 passes for 119 yards.
The Colorado offense, led by former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis, fizzled against a program that played in the national championship game last year. What a turnaround. The 45 points were the same as the team scored last year in the last three games of the 1-11 season.
That was a different team. Completely different. Sanders carried over CU’s roster like no coach in the sport’s modern history. Out with the ‘old furniture’, he once said, and in with the new guys.
Sanders brought in more than fifty new players and that was just after spring training. While some voluntarily made the move, many of the transfers say Sanders actually scrapped them. Sanders took advantage of a so-called “head coach waiver” made available under NCAA rules to allow freshman coaches the ability to cut scholarship players.
He did not hide from that fact. In fact, he made it known early on, when during his first speech to the team he told CU players to enter the portal because, “I’m bringing my own luggage and it’s Louis (Vuitton), okay?” ”
In clean, white uniforms with gold lettering, the Buffaloes looked good on Saturday — and played even better. They’ve scored on five of their last seven possessions, with the offense making up for a lackluster defensive performance in a wild affair in a sold-out Amon G. Carter Stadium.
There were six lead changes in the second half. It went back and forth. TCU took its first lead late in the third quarter, retook the lead with 10:49 left, then again with 7 minutes left.
Prime’s Louis Vuitton had an answer to everything from the Horned Frogs. Hunter, the double star, jumped for a 43-yard completion in fourth behind to extend an eventual touchdown drive in the fourth. On the next drive, in fourth and second, Dylan Edwards, all six feet tall and 170 pounds his, sauntered 46 yards down the sideline for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 4:25 left.
Hunter will skyrocket the Heisman odds. At least, he should. And what a story he has. Sanders pulled the Georgian away from the Seminoles while coaching at Jackson State. He became the highest ranked recruit to ever sign with an HBCU.
On Saturday, he became the first FBS player in 20 years to gain 100 yards and get an interception in the same game. Afterwards, Hunter spoke to staff members outside the locker room, wearing a T-shirt with his coach’s face on it. Here it’s all about Coach Prime. Film crews followed his every move. A bunch of security moved with him as he walked.
Ran! That’s something new. Sanders, who was limping after having two toes amputated on his left foot in 2021, walked along the sidelines for much of the game, occasionally using a crutch. In July he underwent a ninth operation on his left leg and it was not until Monday that he was allowed to remove a boot he had worn for a month.
The win marked the start of Prime’s FBS tenure and followed one of the worst spells of any college football program. Colorado finished a season with a winning record once every 17 years.
The dressing room after the match was dripping with emotions. Employees were in tears.
“Look,” said Rick George of Colorado AD, “we all hear everything and read everything. There were a lot of doubters and he proved them wrong in Game 1.”
As George spoke to a reporter, his coach sat nearby at a microphone, reminding everyone of the critics who beeped when he was hired, of those who said he couldn’t coach at the major league level.
And then, triggered by a question, Sanders jumped into the discussion race, a subject he most shy away from. Not him.
“We will be constantly questioned for doing things that have never been done,” he said. “That makes people uncomfortable, when you see a competent black man sitting up and making his talk and taking the walk. There’s 75% of African Americans in that locker room. That’s quite threatening.
“Oh, they don’t like that! Guess? We do what we do consistently because I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. We’re almost there now. We’re almost there.”
Near the end of one of the most bizarre press conferences you’ll see, Sanders chose an old friend, ESPN reporter Ed Werder, to cover him playing for the Dallas Cowboys. In the spring, Werder posted what appeared to be a banal tweet, describing Sanders as a “famous football coach.”
“Do you believe now? I’ve read through all that bullshit you wrote,” Sanders said. “Do you believe?”
Well, Prime, let’s begin.