FORT WORTH, Texas — Before even entering the press conference room, the voice of Deion Sanders boomed from the hallway inside the bowels of TCU’s football stadium.
Deion arrived with receipts, he said. All of them. Receipts for miles. He keeps them all and he’s got’em all. He won’t forget’em either.
Not literally receipts, of course. Coach Prime isn’t carrying around those thin, white slips that the cashiers distribute. The receipts in which he carries are from the doubters.
And, whoa boy, before his Colorado Buffaloes marched into Fort Worth and stunned No. 17 TCU, 45-42, there were doubters. Lots of them.
“I keep receipts,” he snapped.
He saw what you wrote, he snarled at one writer, before moving on to the next question. Oh, he said to another, you want to ask him about his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, and his record-breaking 510 yards passing?
“Shedeur Sanders? From the HBCU?” he interrupted, glaring from beneath his white hat, a gold chain slung around his white hoodie. “The one that played at Jackson last year? The one that you asked me why I’d give him the starting job? Wasn’t that you?”
When he spoke about Colorado’s receivers this offseason, none of us believed him, he said. What’d they do? Four of them had 100 yards — another school record.
None of us believed in his team, he said, a group that entered this game as a three-touchdown underdog.
No one believed because, of course, we didn’t believe. Why would we? Colorado had won one game in the last 12, hadn’t claimed a top-20 road victory since 2002 and was led by a first-year FBS coach who’d spent the offseason orchestrating the most unprecedented overhaul in college football history: 70 new scholarship players, nine scholarship returners.
So, no, we didn’t believe.
“I’ve been talking about it and talking about it and you didn’t believe me,” he said. “We got a couple guys that should be frontrunners for the Heisman right now.”
Oh, he’s certainly right about that.
Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, threw four touchdowns on the way to his school record yardage in a 38-for-47 outing of masterful precision. Travis Hunter, the former No. 1 recruit who Deion flipped from Florida State two years ago, played 129 snaps in a two-way spectacle of a performance in 90-degree heat. At cornerback, he had an interception at the goal-line and a fourth-quarter pass breakup. At receiver, he caught 11 passes for 119 yards.
Colorado’s offense, steered by former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis, sizzled against a program that played in last year’s national championship game. What a turnaround. The 45 points was as many as the team scored in the final three games of its 1-11 season last year.
That was a different team. Far different. Sanders turned over CU’s roster like no coach in the modern history of the sport. Out with the “old furniture,” he once said, and in with the new dudes.
Sanders brought in more than 50 new players and that was just after spring practice. While some voluntarily made the move, many of the transfers say that Sanders essentially cut them. Sanders used what’s called a “head coach exemption” made available under NCAA rules to give first-year coaches the ability to cut scholarship players.
He didn’t hide from that fact. In fact, he made it known early on, when during his first speech to the team, he told CU players that they should enter the portal because, “I’m bringing my own luggage with me and it’s Louis (Vuitton), OK?”
In clean, white uniforms with gold lettering, the Buffaloes looked good Saturday — and played even better. They scored on five of their last seven possessions, the offense making up for a lackluster defensive outing in a wild affair at a sold-out Amon G. Carter Stadium.
There were six lead changes in the second half. Back and forth it went. TCU took its first lead late in the third quarter, retook the lead with 10:49 left and then again with 7 minutes remaining.
Prime’s Louis Vuitton had an answer for anything from the Horned Frogs. Hunter, the dual star, leaped for a 43-yard completion on a fourth down to extend an eventual touchdown drive in the fourth. During the next drive, on fourth-and-2, Dylan Edwards, all 5-foot-9, 170 pounds of him, tightroped 46 yards down the sideline for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 4:25 left.
Hunter will skyrocket up the Heisman odds. At least, he should. And what a story he has. Sanders pulled the Georgian away from the Seminoles while coaching at Jackson State. He became the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with an HBCU.
On Saturday, he became the first FBS player in at least the last two decades to gain 100 yards receiving and have an interception in the same game. Afterward, Hunter spoke to staff presenters outside of the locker room sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with his coach’s face on it. Around here, it’s all about Coach Prime. Film crews followed his every move. A gaggle of security moved with him when he walked.
Walked! That’s something new. Sanders, hobbled after having two toes amputated on his left foot in 2021, paced the sideline for much of the game, using a stool occasionally. In July, he underwent a ninth surgery on his left leg and only just Monday was cleared to remove a boot that he’d worn for a month.
The victory kicked off Prime’s FBS tenure and followed one of the worst stretches of any college football program. Colorado has finished a season with a winning record once in 17 years.
The post-game locker room dripped with emotion. Staff presenters were in tears.
“Look,” said Colorado AD Rick George, “we all hear everything and read everything. There were a lot of doubters and he proved them wrong Game 1.”
As George spoke to a reporter, his coach sat nearby behind a microphone reminding everyone of the critics who chirped when he was hired, of those who said he couldn’t coach at a major league level.
And then, triggered by a question, Sanders brought into the discussion race, a topic most shy away from. Not him.
“We’re going to continuously be questioned because we do things that have never been done,” he said. “That makes people uncomfortable, when you see a competent Black man sitting up and talking his talk and walking the walk. There’s 75% of African-Americans in that locker room. That’s kinda threatening.
“Oh, they don’t like that! Guess what? We consistently do what we do because I’m here and I ain’t going nowhere. We about to be comin’ right now. We about to be comin’.”
Toward the end of one of the most bizarre news conferences that you’ll see, Sanders singled out an old friend, ESPN reporter Ed Werder, who covered him while he played for the Dallas Cowboys. In the spring, Werder posted what seemed at first like a banal tweet in which he described Sanders as a “celebrity football coach.”
“Do you believe now? I read through that bull-junk you wrote,” Sanders said. “Do you believe?”
Well, Prime, we are starting to.