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“I Believe” – Why Coach Prime is as Bold and Confident as Ever

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USA News-Sports Division January 19, 2023
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“I Believe” – Why Coach Prime is as Bold and Confident as Ever
It’s officially Prime Time in Boulder. You probably have heard by now that Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, now better known as “Coach Prime,” has been named the head football coach at the University of Colorado. The man does have a knack for announcing his arrival. 

The man who was known as “Prime Time” was a star as both a professional baseball and professional football player. He was a pop culture sensation away from the field of play as well. When he signed on to be the head coach at Jackson State back in September 2020, Sanders announced his arrival to JSU with a marching band and police escort to his introductory press conference. I’ll be honest. I remember watching the spectacle on ESPN and thinking to myself, “typical Prime Time. What a modest way to make an entrance.” I thought that Jackson State was desperate to make a splash. I thought JSU, the school that produced Pro Football Hall of Famers such as Jackie Slater and the late-great Walter Payton, was hiring Sanders as a merely a publicity stunt.

I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who thought that. It turns out I was wrong. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wrong about Coach Prime’s hire being just a PR move either. Let me explain. 

What I didn’t know was that Deion Sanders had started his own Prep Academy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area back in 2012. He served as its head football coach. That was the birth of “Coach Prime.” The Prime Prep Academy has since closed its doors due to financial insolvency but I applaud Sanders’ efforts to make a difference both athletically and academically. I didn’t know that Coach Prime coached high school football from 2012-2020 before accepting the head coaching position at Jackson State. I didn’t know that Sanders demanded respect and should be taken seriously as a collegiate coach. 

His playing resume demands respect. Sanders being a Pro Football Hall of Famer demands respect. The question was, could he coach and turn a program like JSU around? 
 
Coach Prime “won” his introductory press conference at Jackson State. We all know it’s one thing to win the press conference. It’s another to product results. During said press conference Sanders made a number of promises. He said that his team would play hard and be disciplined. They would win and look good doing it, but in a professional manner. Sanders promised that JSU would win the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) title. He proclaimed that he would successfully recruit players being pursued by the power five conferences to JSU. Coach Prime claimed that he would bring Jackson State back to prominence. 

Those are bold statements to make when you make a move to an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & University) that historically does not get the funding that bigger schools from the power five conferences get. Those are bold statements to make when the football team you take over went 21-40, including 4-8 in 2019, in the past five seasons. I thought the boldest claim of them all was recruiting players that the power five conferences were targeting. He asked the crowd at JSU if they believed in him. I’m sure they did but also questioned to themselves why a kid who could go to Alabama or Clemson choose Jackson State? 

Coach Prime. That’s why. 

This isn’t exactly your daddy’s version of Deion Sanders. The man is still bold but also he’s a believer. 

Fast forward three years later EVERYTHING that he promised at his introductory press conference came true. Coach Prime led the Jackson State Tigers to a 27-5 record over the past three seasons. That includes a 12-0 record this season. They have won back-to-back SWAC titles. They’ve made two straight Celebration Bowls. Jackson State Football is back on the map. Sanders was even able to flip the #1 overall recruit in the 2022 class, Travis Hunter, to de-commit from Sanders’ alma mater (Florida State) of all places and commit to Jackson State. The Tigers have worked and played hard. They’ve won and looked good doing it. He did all of this at an HBCU where funding isn’t as readily available. While some are sad that Sanders is leaving JSU, he may have helped change the perception of how HBCUs (in a much more positive way) are viewed in the process. Time will tell what lasting positive effect Coach Prime will have with HBCUs.

Give credit where credit is due. He believed. It happened with hard work but it happened. How can you not believe a guy who has a track record of doing everything he promises he would do? 

Now Coach Prime is off to the University of Colorado. He’s in a power five conference now, whatever is left of the PAC-12. Once again, he made his presence known on day one. He didn’t arrive to Boulder with a police escort or marching band this time. Coach Prime was ALL business. He had to be all business: he’s taking over a team that went 1-11 this past season. Sanders is a competitive guy. Competitive guys HATE losing. Colorado has had only ONE winning season since 2011, their first season in the PAC-12. 

He again “won” the introductory press conference and even announced that he son, Shedeur, would be the Buffaloes new quarterback. Coach Prime then mentioned that he would have to earn it, but that’s a helluva way to announce your new QB! To be fair Shedeur Sanders won the Jerry Rice Award as the most outstanding NCAA Division-I freshman last season. He was also the SWAC’s Offensive Player of the Year this past season. His father is the head coach and has coached him since high school. I don’t know who the other returning Colorado quarterbacks are but like Charles Barkley once said of Angola before they played the Dream Team, they’re in trouble. My money is on Shedeur Sanders opening the 2023 season as Colorado’s starting QB. 

Where Sanders really raised some eyebrows was when he talked to his new team for the first time. Notice that his new players didn’t exactly give Coach Prime the most enthusiastic greeting. Maybe it’s because they were nervous to meet a Hall-of-Famer. Maybe it was because they didn’t know what to expect. Or maybe it was because their new coach told them to enter the transfer portal. Check out the YouTube video at the beginning of this article. 

 Wow! I doubt it’s common for a new coach to encourage the players on his new team to transfer. Before you respond with “this is just a test” watch the video again. Sanders mentions, with a very serious tone, that he’s bringing his luggage with him and that its Louis Vutton. I don’t doubt that “Prime Time” actually owns Louis Vutton bags but he clarifies what he means by saying that he “had a couple positions taken of already.” I’m sure he means his son Shedeur (QB), his other son Shilo (safety), and 2022’s top recruit Travis Hunter (DB) among others. I lost count of all the time Coach Prime said “I’m coming” while addressing the remaining Buffaloes. He talked about not only competing but winning. The new coach once again talked about believing. Sanders promised that his new team would work hard to the point where his staff would make these players want to quit!  

I’m sure some of Coach Prime’s players are excited to play for him. Others were probably either insulted or got scared as hell. Freshman QB Owen McCown, son of former NFL QB Josh McCown, rumored to be headed for the portal. I’m sure a number of his teammates will be headed out the door with him, if not now after summer training camp. They shouldn’t though… 

I know it’s easy for me to say, but they should give Coach Prime a chance, as should the coach his new players. It appears as if Sanders is old school. He knows what it takes to win. The man won two Super Bowls and helped an HBCU school do a complete 180 in three years. The man gets it. He also understands the new NIL rules and what attract the attention of today’s players. Sanders demands respect from his players but he also asks that they listen. He also has a plan to promote via social media channels. People will learn who these guys are. If they do follow Sanders, not only will the Colorado Buffaloes program be turned around quickly but Coach Prime will have a positive effect on these guys – both as football players and as men. 

Oh, and if you think he’s moving from Jackson State to Colorado just for the money think again. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Sanders is getting a huge pay bump by moving to Boulder. He’s definitely not coaching for free. Coach Prime agreed to become the Buffaloes new head football coach despite not finalizing the compensation details with Colorado athletic director Rick George. Actually, it’s more or less how George is going to come up with the money to pay Coach Prime. The new hiring has certainly energized the Colorado fanbase. Money will come in from boosters and all will be just fine. 

That’s the thing with moving to a bigger school in a bigger conference. The PAC-12, again what’s left of it, is on another level. That’s not a slight to HBCUs. The University of Colorado is a member of a power five conference. This will be Coach Prime’s biggest challenge to date. Do I believe? Actually, yes. I do believe he will have success in his new role. It might not come as quickly but I think Sanders’ competitiveness and drive will produce positive results. They can’t do much worse than 1-11! Enjoy Coach Prime while you can, Boulder. He’s given you no reason to think otherwise to this point, but time will tell. 

One thing’s for sure. He’s coming. Coach Prime said it himself over and over while addressing his new team. 

I can only imagine what Tim McCarver thinks of Deion Sanders now… 


Photo Credit: Mississippi.org
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