College Football
Deion Sanders on future at Colorado: 'I plan on being here and being dominant here'
College Football

Deion Sanders on future at Colorado: 'I plan on being here and being dominant here'

Published Jun. 24, 2024 11:55 a.m. ET

In the first-ever episode of "Big Noon Conversations" last year, I met with Deion Sanders just a few months into his tenure at Colorado to discuss why he went to Boulder and his expectations for 2023.

Months after our conversation, Sanders and Colorado dominated the sports world. The Buffaloes got off to a 3-0 start, before finishing the year 4-8.

Entering Year 2 in Boulder, Sanders joined me again for "Big Noon Conversations" ahead of another highly-anticipated season at Colorado. We discussed what he learned from Year 1 on the job, where he personally wants to improve, and his future expectations for when his sons (Shedeur and Shilo Sanders) likely leave for the NFL in 2025.

Here's a snippet of my conversation with the Colorado coach. 


(Read more from "Big Noon Conversations:" Sherrone Moore, Steve Sarkisian)

You started your first season at Colorado 3-0. You said the only frustrating part for you was that you guys didn't sustain. In your book, "Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win On and Off the Field," you talked about evaluating yourself and many coaches do this: How are things going? What needs to change? What can I do better? Take me into your postseason evaluation of Coach Prime. 

Let me take you back to my in-season evaluation, because a coach knows. After we get our butts kicked in the Oregon game, I said, "You better get me now," because I knew we didn't have what we needed to play at that level of consistency. We didn't have what we needed to play at certain levels against certain teams. We didn't have everything in-house. Although we may have believed that we could compete with them, in the trenches, I knew. At the skill positions, oh yeah, we got that because that's the attractability I come with. I'm going to attract the skill positions, so we good and we can go head-to-head with anybody. When it comes to those trenches, we didn't have what we needed — and that's where we suffered. The whole world gets to see that. I'm not the only one. Now, the players say, ‘Hey, I can come in and help. I could be part of that.' Now, you're able to attain those type of young men that could get you to the next level, that could protect Shedeur. 

The only thing that trips me up is you see the same thing I see … but when I say it, you got a problem with it and [say], "Don't talk about other people like that." How you got a problem with what I see? He saw the same thing and he said it. But when I say it, why is it a problem? Are we not used to honesty from football coaches across America?

What did you learn about yourself in Year 1 at Colorado?

Patience, that I need a little bit more patience. I needed a little more patience in certain areas.

I could see that. There were moments I could see that on your face. 

Because I know what's supposed to be happening, and I'm hearing what's supposed to be happening. If it's not happening — my best statement I make to the staff is, "If you allow it to happen, that's on you." It's just consequently on me.

I want to go back to your book because there was something that jumped off the page to me when I read it. You wrote how everyone knows you as playing for NFL teams, winning Super Bowls, going to Pro Bowls and being the only person to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series as well as the only person to play in an NFL and MLB game in the same day. Yet, in big bold letters in the book, you wrote, "BUT YOU WILL REMEMBER ME AS COACH PRIME." That's obviously what you believe and what you're aiming to do. How does that happen?

It's a multiplicity of things that has to transpire: You got to be successful in what we call success. You got to be present, you don't have to be perfect, you just got to be present. You got to provoke change. I have the autonomy and the ability to accomplish all three simultaneously. We're doing it and it's on me. How long do I want to do it? My tank is full. I'm full. I'm behind the F. I'm leaning behind the F. I'm still hitting the thing and the gas is still coming out. I'm so full and I love it. 

It's getting to the point now that some people, especially kids, don't know me as "Prime." They know me as "Coach Prime." I like that. 

The Aflac commercials you do with Nick Saban are great, but it also gives you access to Coach Saban. 

Oh my God, I'm like a kid in a darn candy shop. I'm sitting there, asking him, "Coach, can you tell me about this?" I keep going and he keeps going. I love him. 

I'm interested in what you thought of Saban's comments after he retired, because he was basically saying his tank was at "E" and he didn't want to deal with what we're dealing with now.

First of all, let's just get this straight, he's the magna cum laude. He is it. He's what we attain to just get next to. 

Saban said he didn't want to deal with what college football is now. What was your reaction when you heard that?

It's changed. It's different. He kept it a buck, he kept it 100. I know how he got to that point. You hear the stories, but you know the truth when you hear the truth and I know the truth. I just hate it for him because I felt as though he had so much more left, but I understand when it's not in you to do it that way and you want to do it this way. Shoot, it was dark. Like, man, we lost the OG. He means so much to me personally as a man and just watching him from near and far, being able to have access to pick up a phone and call him whenever I would need him and I didn't abuse that situation whatsoever. I hate that we lost him for college football. It shouldn't be like that.

Deion Sanders explains his relationship with Nick Saban & how to fix CFB

How would you fix it? Do you have one or two things that you would do tomorrow if you could?

Everybody wants it both ways. The kids want to be compensated like pros, but they don't want to be treated like the pros. … It's been a safeguard around college athletes that the media don't really go after because they're amateurs. Now, you got media talking junk to college players because college players are making more than the media. A lot of these collegiate athletes ain't built like that, to hear that, because the first thing they do, and we try to safeguard that, is at halftime they go check their phone and say, "What he saying about me?" You can't live like that. 

It's tough. They should be compensated — all of them, in every sport. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

Coach Saban would put it like, there's got to be a balance between what you give and what you take. 

If I give you something, I have an expectation. If you're not meeting the expectation, what do I do? 

What's the recourse?

I should have some type of recourse if I'm breaking you off and blessing you and you ain't doing nothing for it. Where do we go from there?

You've got a couple of guys, with Shedeur being one of them and obviously Travis Hunter, that are doing remarkably well with name, image and likeness. 

They do really good and don't forget Shilo because every time I forget Shilo, he tells me, "Dad, you sit right up there with Joel and you didn't mention me."

Colorado's Top 10 plays from the 2023 season featuring Shedeur Sanders, Travis Hunter, and more!

Shilo, I won't forget you. You touched on it earlier when you said that your tank is full and that this is your calling. I would be interested to hear what your vision is long-term as a coach and maybe for Colorado football after Shedeur, Shilo and Travis leave?

OK, let me start by saying I'm a leader of men, not a follower of men. I'm a father, not a baby daddy. I lead my sons, I don't follow my sons. My sons, Travis included, are getting ready to migrate to the NFL. I'm not following them to the NFL. I'm gonna lead. I'm a daddy, not a baby daddy. I'm a real father. I paved the way for my babies, they're not paving the way for me. 

So I plan on being here and being dominant here, because they're establishing something that we're going to continue to build on for years to come — and I'm thankful that they're establishing what they're establishing.

That leads me to this year. We sat down last year and it was great. I really loved our conversation. There was only one part where I thought you were going to come across and be like, "What are you talking about?" I said, "If I'm putting on my analyst hat and not my alumni hat, what does substantial improvement look like for any team? Well, I've been doing this for a really long time. So, plus three-to-five in the win column is really, really good and tough. I said that to you and you said, "I want it all. I want the full cup."

If I put my analyst hat on for this year's team, I see a team that if things happen the right way, based on the fact that you won four, you were plus three, you probably could have won or should have won two or three more. I see the schedule you have this year as opposed to the schedule you had a year ago. And —

The quarterback ability. 

The quarterback ability, obviously. 

I mean the quarterback ability that we played against. 

Oh, of course. You played against some of the best quarterbacks in the country. But I legitimately feel like you guys can be an upper-echelon team and can compete for the Big 12 championship. 

That's not with your Colorado drawers on, right?


I want them to know that you don't have your Colorado drawers on.

No, but they are comfy. 

I want them to know that, that your analyst hat is on.

But last year, I said four or five wins was going to be a very good year. I still stand by that. I know that it didn't finish the way that you wanted it to. I think that the heightened expectations lead to a feeling like expectations weren't met. I don't feel like that was the case.

Let me tell you something: In certain areas, we weren't built for the moment. Certain areas we weren't built for. The moment came, it'd be third-and-5. We don't get it. First-and-10, we just need one more stop because we know damn well if the ball gets in Shedeur's hands, we're going to win it.

You were one more stop away against USC.

And we didn't get a stop. 

I genuinely believe that with your quarterback in particular, you have a chance to compete for the Big 12 championship. In this era, there's 12 teams in the playoff. If you're on the level where you can compete for a conference championship, you will be competing, at least in my estimation, for the playoffs.

I love to hear it. 

What's your expectations for this season?

To do what you just forementioned. I feel like we addressed the needs and tremendous concerns: protecting the quarterback. We've got a darn quarterback — forget that he's my son, forget all that, because when you place daddy in it, the hate comes. You start getting crazy.

Well, let me say it. Shedeur was one of the best quarterbacks in the country when protected.


Is there anything different you want to do in Year 2 than in Year 1?

I want to be much more consistent. You mean me personally or the team?


I've got to act on what I feel, and I've got to act on what I know. It's like, you see some things, you feel some things, and I'm a nice guy, so I give it a chance to materialize and for it to come to pass. Then, I call my support guys around the country. You know, Coach Saban and some of the other guys around the country. I don't want to mention their names, but they give me so much love and advice.

I've got to act on it. If I would've acted on it, things might have been a lot different. But I didn't.

For more of my conversation with Sanders, head over to Spotify, YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports' lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast "The Joel Klatt Show." Follow him on X/Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the "Joel Klatt Show" on YouTube.


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