Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders Named Head Football Coach at Colorado

BOULDER — Deion Sanders, known as “Prime Time” during his Hall of Fame playing career and has since transitioned into “Coach Prime,” has been named the 28th full-time head football coach at the University of Colorado, athletic director Rick George announced Saturday evening.

Sanders, 55, joins the CU program from Jackson State University (Jackson, Miss.), where in three seasons the Tigers compiled a 27-5 record and won back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference championships competing on the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS ) levels; that mark includes a 12-0 record this season. Jackson State defeated Southern, 43-24, in the SWAC title game on Saturday.

“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,” George said. “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.”

At Jackson State, Sanders achieved tremendous success on and off the field as a fierce advocate for additional exposure and a level playing field for all Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Sanders brought national attention to HBCUs, pushing for opportunities to highlight his talent and the culture. In March 2022, Sanders held a Pro Day featuring athletes from four other schools in the state of Mississippi to provide a platform in front of 22 NFL teams and the Canadian Football League. In April 2022, Jackson State became the first HBCU to have its spring football game televised live nationally on ESPNU.

“Deion Sanders’ stature transcends sports, and his hiring elevates not only the football program but the university as a whole,” said CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “I’m thankful Deion has chosen to join our Buffalo family and I applaud Rick George for a truly inspired choice. This is an exciting new chapter in the long, storied history of Colorado football and I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our students, supporters and fans to cheer on “Coach Prime” and our student-athletes next fall.”

Sanders first game as head coach for the Buffaloes will be next Sept. 2 at TCU, currently ranked third in the College Football Playoff standings. His first home games follow on Sept. 9 against long-time rival Nebraska, with in-state rival Colorado State on tap the following Saturday. Those two foes open the 100th season of CU’s historic Folsom Field.

The “Coach Prime” docuseries from SMAC Productions will premiere later this month on Prime Video and cover Jackson State’s undefeated season and Coach Prime’s arrival in Colorado.

COACHING CAREERS

Sanders was named the 21st head coach in Jackson State history on Sept. 21, 2020, but had to wait to coach his first game until COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and several FCS schools opted to play a delayed schedule in the spring. Exactly six months to the day later (Feb. 21, 2021), he led the Tigers to a 53-0 win over Edward Waters (Fla.) to begin the “Coach Prime Era.” It was considered the touch point of the elevation of JSU football and the University into becoming one of the most impactful and recognizable brands nationwide.

JSU was 4-3 in the pandemic-delayed 2020 season before rolling to an 11-2 record in 2021, winning the SWAC title with a 27-10 win over Prairie View A&M in the title game. The Tigers lost to South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl; otherwise their only other loss over his last 25 games was a 12-7 setback at FBS Louisiana-Monroe in Sept. ’21.

Seven of his players on the 2021 JSU roster earned a professional opportunity in the NFL, CFL or USFL, including James Houston IV, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions. He also signed cornerback Travis Hunter, considered the top high school prospect in the nation, to an NLI in December 2021, the highest ranked prospect to ever sign with an HBCU or an FCS program.

Sanders was recently voted the SWAC’s Coach of the Year for a second straight season; 12 of his players earned some level of All-SWAC honors. For the 2021 campaign, he also garnered honors for the FCS Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year, BOXTOTOW National Coach of the Year and Black College Hall of Fame Coach of the Year.

Prior to joining the collegiate coaching ranks at Jackson State, Sanders had been involved in coaching for over a decade. He was the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School (Cedar Hill, Texas), leading the Tigers to three straight Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) titles and a 42-3 record. He also has also been part of the coaching staff for the annual Under Armor All-America Game since 2012. Last February, Sanders was named as an HBCU legacy coach for the NFL Pro Bowl.

COLLEGIATE HONORS

A two-time unanimous first-team All-American at Florida State, he won the third annual Jim Thorpe Award in 1988, presented to the nation’s top defensive back; he had been a finalist for the honor in 1987 when he finished behind co-winners Rickey Dixon (Oklahoma) and Bennie Blades (Miami). The second time around, he topped Louis Oliver (Florida) and Steve Atwater (Arkansas and future Denver Bronco). That same year, he finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

He finished his Seminole football career with 14 interceptions, three returned for touchdowns; those are still tied for third in the FSU record book (with ESPN’s Lee Corso). He owns the longest interception return in school history when he raced 100 yards for a TD against Tulsa as a freshman. Sanders also racked up a still-school record of 1,429 punt return yards with three more scores. Playing for the late Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden, FSU was 36-9-1 in his four seasons as a Seminole, finishing as the nation’s No. 2 team as a junior in 1987 and No. 3 his senior season in 1988.

He also played one season of baseball for FSU (as a sophomore in 1987, batting .267 with three home runs, 21 runs batted in and 27 stolen bases) and ran sprints and relays in track (he was the 1988 Metro Conference outdoor champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes). He was inducted into Florida State’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in its 2011 class.

NFL & MLB CAREERS

Sanders is the only athlete ever to play in both a Super Bowl (twice) and the World Series.

He appeared in 188 regular season games (157 starts) in the National Football League with five teams: Atlanta (1989-93; the Falcons selected him as the fifth overall pick in the first round in the ’89 Draft), San Francisco (1994 ), Dallas (1995-99), Washington (2000) and Baltimore (2004-05). He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for 1994, was named to its 1990s All-Decade Team and to the NFL’s All-Time Team in 2020, the latter as part of the league’s 100th season celebration.

“Prime Time” made 53 interceptions over the course of his career, with 512 tackles, 19 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries. He amassed 7,838 all-purpose yards, primarily through returns (2,199 punt, 3,523 kickoff). He also caught 60 passes for 784 yards and three touchdowns in spot duty as a wide receiver throughout his career, as in 1996, he became just one of two two-way starters in the NFL since the platoon days of the 1950s. He set an NFL record with 19 career touchdowns on returns, nine coming via interception returns with six on punts, three on kickoffs and one fumble runback.

He appeared in 12 postseason games, making five more interceptions, and won Super Bowl rings back-to-back with the 49ers and Cowboys. He had three tackles and an interception in San Francisco’s win over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX, and a reception for 47 yards in the victory against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in its 2011 class, recognizing a 14-year NFL career which saw him be an All-Pro selection nine times and play in eight Pro Bowls.

In Major League Baseball, he was drafted out of high school in the sixth round of the 1985 draft by the Kansas City Royals, but opted to play college football. He was then selected in the ’88 draft by the New York Yankees and made his MLB debut on May 31, 1989 with the club and was on the Yankees’ opening day roster in 1990.

Sanders played a total of 11 seasons in professional baseball, nine in the major leagues with the New York Yankees (1989-90), Atlanta (1991-94), Cincinnati (1994-95, 1997, 2001) and San Francisco (1995) . In 641 major league games, he owned a career batting average of .263 (558 hits in 2,123 at bats), scoring 308 runs with 39 home runs, 168 runs batted in and 1986 stolen bases.

In the 1992 World Series, when Toronto bested Atlanta four games to two, Sanders appeared in four games, batting .533 (8-of-15), with four runs scored and five stolen bases.

During his professional career, Sanders played alongside seven Colorado Buffalo alumni, including relief pitcher Jay Howell, CU’s last player in the majors, with the Atlanta Braves in 1993. In the NFL, his teammates who played at CU include Jeff Donaldson and Mike Pritchard ( Atlanta Falcons, 1991-93), Greg Jones, Jay Leeuwenburg and Michael Westbrook (Washington Redskins, 2000) and Kordell Stewart (Baltimore Ravens, 2004-05).

SANDERS & COLORADO

Sanders’ NFL teams played Denver four times, each winning twice on their home fields; he missed one of the two games in Colorado as he was wrapping up the 1995 MLB season with the San Francisco Giants. He had an interception in San Francisco’s 42-19 win over the Broncos at Candlestick Park in 1994. In his only game in the state in a football uniform, he had an unassisted tackle with the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, his final per season.

He was pretty much a thorn in the side against the Colorado Rockies. In 26 games against them between the Braves, Red and Giants, he batted .381 (40-for-105), scoring 21 runs with four doubles, a triple, one home run, eight runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. Only eight of those games were in Colorado, where he batted .378 (14-of-37), with his only home run against the Rox; he played at both the old Mile High Stadium in ’93 and ’94 with the Braves and at Coors Field with the Reds in ’97 (his teams were a combined 19-7 against Colorado).

STAFF

Sanders retired from baseball in 2001 and after not playing in the NFL from 2001-03, came out of his first retirement and to play those two additional seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004-05.

He began a broadcasting career in 2001, co-hosting NFL Today, the CBS pregame show; he was on that set for three years. He then spent 14 years at the NFL Network as an analyst and appearing on shows like GameDay Prime and Thursday Night Football.

Success—both on the field and in the classroom—has always been at the forefront for Sanders. After his retirement as a professional athlete in 2006, he founded TRUTH, a youth organization serving over 1,100 kids throughout the Dallas and Memphis communities, utilizing education as a platform for success and leadership.

Following through on a long-standing personal goal, Sanders graduated from Talladega College in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Organizational Management.

Sanders is the proud father of five children: sons Deion Jr., Shilo, and Shedeur, and daughters Deiondra and Shelomi. Shilo (redshirt sophomore safety) and Shedeur (sophomore quarterback) both played for Sanders at Jackson State, while Deion Jr. oversaw the social media engagement. His youngest, Shelomi is a true freshman guard on the women’s basketball team at Jackson State.

(Deion Sanders continues to be represented by Constance Schwartz-Morini at SMAC Entertainment and Tabetha Plummer of Plummer Law Group.)

Assistant AD/Sports Information Curtis Snyder contributed to this story.

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