College Football
Nebraska's Matt Rhule praises Colorado's Deion Sanders ahead of rivalry game
College Football

Nebraska's Matt Rhule praises Colorado's Deion Sanders ahead of rivalry game

Updated Sep. 25, 2023 8:56 p.m. ET

While Deion Sanders and Colorado's star players are embracing the Buffaloes' long-held rivalry with Nebraska, the Cornhuskers' new head coach appeared to soften his own approach on Tuesday. 

Matt Rhule heaped praise on "Coach Prime" when asked about him in advance of Nebraska's trip to face Colorado in Boulder for Sanders' home debut on Big Noon Saturday (coverage starts with Big Noon Kickoff at 10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App.)

"He's won at everything he's done in football," Rhule said. "He's won as a player, he's won as a coach. Everyone maybe thinks from outside — not me, everyone else — thinks that ‘Well, this is all a show and act.’ He's the most serious person about football. His poster was on people's walls for a reason as a player because he's one of the hardest-practicing, hardest-playing people that has ever played the game. Why would we think that his team wouldn't be the same?"


Sanders' Colorado team drew praise for its discipline, among other things, in the Buffaloes' 45-42 upset on the road over defending national runner-up TCU on Saturday. Colorado only had six penalties throughout the game, which Sanders later singled out as one of the things he is most proud of about his players.

"[I have] the utmost respect for Coach Sanders," Rhule said. "All the other stuff, the commercials and other things, those are things you get to do when you're elite at football. I'm not surprised at all. Everything he's ever done in football, he's been successful at."

Some on social media found Rhule's comments ironic, pointing out that he had appeared to take veiled swipes at Sanders' approach to rebuilding Colorado's program during the offseason. Rhule said in March that he appreciated how his team was always "working" and not "talking" in videos posted to social media and that he prided himself in not having cameras follow him into team meetings — which Sanders does.

He also contrasted himself to coaches who publicly stated that they would overturn their roster via the transfer portal, which Sanders did.

Sanders himself said after Colorado's win over TCU that he was keeping "receipts" of what was said about him and his program in the offseason, but if he holds a grudge against Rhule for his past comments, he did not show it during his own press conference Tuesday.

"I admire their coach tremendously," Sanders told reporters. "What he did at Baylor, I know things didn't go the way they desired it to go at Carolina, but just that opportunity and doing what he did is what some aspire to go to. I like him. He's done a phenomenal job with that team and trying to get them to go in the right direction. They play hard, they play tough, they're physical. They dot i's and cross t's and, trust me, they're not going to lay down [against us] by any means."

Rhule and Sanders were arguable the two highest-profile hires from last season's college football coaching cycle, both attempting to rebuild proud former national champions, but coming from dramatically different paths. 

Rhule is already a proven program-builder at the Power 5 level after doing so at Baylor before a rocky tenure with the NFL's Carolina Panthers that saw him fired midway through his third season. Sanders had three years total of college football head coaching experience at Jackson State before getting hired by Colorado in December. The contrasting coaches and programs will be on full display when the two renew a historic rivalry Saturday on FOX.

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