College Football
Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders respond to Colorado critics
College Football

Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders respond to Colorado critics

Updated May. 1, 2024 8:02 p.m. ET

Deion Sanders' approach to transforming Colorado's roster in his two years at the helm has been viewed as controversial by some, notably cutting players from the team while bringing in a high volume of transfers.

But one of Colorado's top players came to Sanders' defense following a report from The Athletic that detailed how the coach handled removing players from his roster. One quote, from former Colorado safety Xavier Smith — detailing the interaction he had with Sanders when he was told it was best for him to leave the program in April 2023 — went viral.

"We sat on the sofa, and he's talking to us, but he's not even looking at us," Smith told The Athletic. "I'm looking [at then Colorado defensive coordinator Charles Kelly] dead in his eyes. [Sanders] said he felt like I should hit the portal. He didn't want me to waste a year thinking I could earn a spot.

"I was actually getting mad, like tears coming to my eyes. Because, bro, you never even tried to get to know me."


Smith also didn't like the lead-up to the day of his fateful meeting with Sanders.

"He was destroying guys' confidence and belief in themselves," Smith told The Athletic. "The way he did it, it could've been done with a little more compassion."

Several Colorado players sniped back at Smith personally, most notably Sanders' son and Buffaloes quarterback, Shedeur Sanders.

"Ion even remember him tbh. Bro had to be very mid at best," Shedeur Sanders wrote in a social media post.

Coach Prime entered the fray after Shedeur received backlash for his comment. In one social media post responding to criticism of Shedeur, the elder Sanders said Shedeur would be a top-five NFL Draft pick and asked the commenter, "Where yo son going?"

Another one of Deion Sanders' posts went viral shortly thereafter. Some current Colorado players had engaged in a back-and-forth with wide receiver Jaheim Ward, one of Smith's teammates at FCS Austin Peay. When one account posted a screenshot of Ward's career stat line, Sanders quoted the screenshot with a two-word message: "Lawd Jesus."

Another high-profile Colorado player, safety Cam'Ron Silmon-Craig, who has played for Sanders since 2021 at Jackson State, also called out The Athletic story and came to his coach's defense on social media Tuesday.

"boy they stay tryna paint this bad image of my coach and the program when reality if you work yo butt off and make plays you will be celebrated and appreciated an if you don't do those things your not built for this team just the truth EVERYBODY HAS A OPPORTUNITY," Silmon-Craig wrote in a post.

The meeting that Smith had described to The Athletic happened after Colorado's first spring game with Sanders as its head coach. But Smith wasn't the only player who had a meeting, as former Colorado wide receiver Chase Sowell told The Athletic that he recalled seeing over a dozen players lined up outside Sanders' office to be told they were no longer needed.

"We knew it was going to happen, but we didn't know it was going to happen that soon," Sowell told The Athletic of his meeting with Sanders that day.

"He didn't sugarcoat it," Sowell added. "He was telling me, ‘You're coming off injury. I don't think you will be one of the guys we need to start this year. We need guys that are going to be ready to play now.'"

In the months leading up to the spring game in 2023, Sanders had already made his presence felt at Colorado. He brought in several transfers, including many from his former school, such as Travis Hunter, Silmon-Craig and his sons, Shedeur and Shilo

Sowell told The Athletic that he felt there was a division between the incoming transfers and the holdovers on Colorado's roster. Behind the scenes, the Amazon docuseries that covered Sanders, along with his son's "Well Off Media" YouTube channel, created a culture that "kinda felt like a reality TV show," according to Sowell.

Can Deion Sanders Rebuild Colorado (Again)?

Sowell and Smith were two of the 53 players who transferred out of Colorado between the time Sanders was hired and his first game as head coach. Sowell wound up at East Carolina, leading the team in receiving in 2023 as he had 47 receptions for 622 yards and a touchdown. Smith went to Austin Peay, an FCS program, before transferring back to an FBS school, joining UTEP for the upcoming season.

While 53 players departed the program, Sanders brought in 87 new players, using the transfer portal to his advantage as he took over a one-win team. Colorado's first season with Sanders at the helm brought tremendous buzz as the Buffaloes went 3-0 before petering out, finishing the year 4-8.

Sanders hit the transfer portal again this offseason, bringing in 34 transfers so far, but not before more than 40 players left the program. 

As he begins Year 2 in Boulder, Sanders is hoping to find better success than he did at the end of 2023. The Buffaloes return both Sheduer and Hunter, who are each viewed as top prospects for the 2025 NFL Draft. Even though his sons will likely enter the NFL in 2025, Sanders said over the weekend that he's committed to Colorado for the long haul.

[Want great stories delivered right to your inbox? Create or log in to your FOX Sports account, follow leagues, teams and players to receive a personalized newsletter daily.]


Get more from College Football Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more