Conventionally, 60 Minutes doesn't profile the same subject twice in two seasons. But convention doesn't intersect with Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Last fall, we met Sanders in Mississippi, where he was coaching Jackson State to prominence in a conference of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Then, the man who calls himself Coach Prime high-stepped it to Boulder, to the University of Colorado, taking his blazingly singular style with him. There, he hasn't just awoken a dormant program; but has transformed it into the talk of college football, if not American sports. Sanders is revered. He is reviled. But his sudden impact is indisputable. For the second time, in two radically different environments, unapologetic as ever, he's shaken the sport like a snowglobe.
Jon Wertheim: Are you the change agent? Are you the ultimate change agent--
Deion Sanders: I-I make a difference. I truly make a difference. I make folks nervous, man. I get folks movin' in their seat. I get folks twiddlin' their thumbs. I get them thinkin' and second-guessin' theirself. You know -- have you ever been so clean that you walked in, and somebody looked down at you, then they looked at themselves? They had to check themselves because you were so clean? I have that effect.
Jon Wertheim: That's the vibe you're gettin--
Deion Sanders: Yeah-- no, no, I have that effect. (LAUGH) That was some good game right there, boy. God, that was good–
This was the scene in the locker room two weekends ago, before the Colorado Buffaloes and their new coach, Deion Sanders, opened the season a 21-point underdog, at TCU. Colorado was fresh off a 1-11 season. TCU was fresh from playing in last season's national championship game.
With skill and will, the Buffaloes won, 45-42, behind their star quarterback, Shedeur Sanders. But the real focus—as ever—was on Shedeur's 56-year-old father. It was his first win as coach of a Power Five school, the highest level of college football.
Jon Wertheim: Do you feel like you were underestimated? You come here, and it's, "I don't know if Coach Prime can win." You must have heard what some of these other coaches were sayin', both secretly and out loud---
Deion Sanders: Tha-- that's fear.
Jon Wertheim: Fear.
Deion Sanders: Yeah, that's fear. That's like, "Hey, man. Shoot, we don't wanna let that engine that could get goin' because if that engine that could get goin', he goin' start sayin', 'I think I can. I think I can.' And sooner or later, he gonna start sayin', 'I know I can. I know I can.' Then sooner or later, he gonna start sayin', 'I did that.'"
His Colorado debut drew national attention and monster TV ratings. Interest compounded last weekend, when the Buffaloes played before the biggest home crowd in 15 years and beat rival Nebraska.
This weekend? Both Fox and ESPN dispatched their pregame shows, the Rock included, to Boulder. Then the Buffaloes rallied late to beat Colorado State in a double overtime thriller. Three games into the season, the foothills of the Rockies mark the unlikely epicenter of an entire sport.
Jon Wertheim: What's this been like for you? (LAUGH)
Rick George: It's-- it's been-- a lotta fun.
Rick George, who hired Coach Prime, has been Colorado's athletic director for a decade.
Rick George: It's great-- for us to be able to bring this program back to relevancy. And we had failed in my previous nine years-- ten years.
Jon Wertheim: Fair to call this a bit of a hail Mary? (LAUGH)
Rick George: It wasn't a hail Mary, but it was a moment in time for our-- university and our athletic department that we were either gonna be relevant or we were gonna be irrelevant.
It's early to quantify the full prime effect, but merchandise sales? Up 819% from last season. Instagram followers? Up more than tenfold. Season tickets? Sold out. Sanders might be the ideal coach for these shifting times in college football. Another son, Deion Jr., is part of the army of videographers filming the team nonstop for YouTube and an upcoming docuseries.
Jon Wertheim: This team won one game last season.
Deion Sanders: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
Jon Wertheim: Is that in a way-- a point of appeal?
Deion Sanders: God wouldn't relocate me to something that was successful. That don't make sense, do it? He had to find the most disappointing and the most difficult task. And this is what it was. And this is what it is. And I love that.
This wasn't dissimilar to what hethat "God had called him collect" to come to Jackson State University and elevate, yes, the football program but also all HBCUs.
He stayed three seasons, but the same night last December that JSU won the conference championship, Sanders announced he was off to Colorado to climb another mountain.
Jon Wertheim: You left Jackson State and you left quick. What did you tell those kids--
Deion Sanders: No, I didn't leave quick.
Jon Wertheim: --what-- what did you tell those kids--
Deion Sanders: I didn't (LAUGH) leave quick.
Jon Wertheim: You were--
Deion Sanders: I didn't leave quick. I left when I was supposed to leave.
Jon Wertheim: Alright
Deion Sanders: We finished. Most coaches get a new job and they leave expeditiously. I finished the task.
Jon Wertheim: You say finished the task, was there-- was there more work you could've done in Jackson, or--
Deion Sanders: I think we did a tremendous job in Jackson. I think we laid down a tremendous blueprint.
We tried to press Sanders on the circumstances surrounding his abandoning the mission at Jackson State. He's hinted the school's lack of forward-thinking may have factored in his decision. But on this topic, he was about as elusive as he was returning punts for touchdowns in the NFL.
Jon Wertheim: What did you tell those kids when you left?
Deion Sanders: Opportunity called. Sooner or later in life, there will be opportunity that knocks at your door. And at this juncture in my life, I felt like the opportunity for not only me, but for my kids as well, was tremendous. Not only did we take several kids from that team, three trainers, maybe 12 to 14 staffers. So we afforded to give people a tremendous opportunity here.
The distance between Jackson and Boulder is a thousand miles and immeasurably further culturally. Sanders went from a city that is 83% Black to one that is 1% Black. From a place with a water crisis; to the kind of hipster college town where there's a shop devoted to kites.
Jon Wertheim: What are your first impressions?
Deion Sanders: Beautiful. Unbelievable. Just the whole peace and serenity of it all. I had never fathom comin' here. I ain't ever even vacation here, man. I ain't ever been skiin' or whatever you call it, snowboarding or whatever, all the stuff. You know - I ain't never been none of that.
Jon Wertheim: You don't even fly fish.
Deion Sanders: No, I don't. I fish, I'm fly while I fish, but I don't (laughter) fly fish.
Still, he wasted no time ingratiating himself in the community, including a visit to Peggy Coppom, a 98-year-old Buffaloes superfan.
Peggy Coppom: Are you Prime?
Deion Sanders: That's what they call me.
Peggy Coppom:Do I call you that or Deion?
Deion: No, no, call me anything you want. We good.
Peggy Coppom:Well how about good lookin'?
Deion Sanders: There you go.
Peggy Coppom:That'll do? Okay.
He was less embracing of the incumbent Colorado players. At the first team meeting in December, Sanders encouraged players to enter the transfer portal, an open market for athletes to find new schools.
Deion Sanders at team meeting: I promise you it is my job to get rid of you.
And make room for superior talent he planned to bring in. More than 50 players eventually transferred out.
Jon Wertheim: You got here, and you didn't pull punches. You told some of these guys–
Deion Sanders: Have I ever? You take a team that's won one game, and you fire the whole coachin' staff. So, who did the coaching staff recruit? The kids. So, the kids are just as much to blame as the coaching staff. And I came to the conclusion that a multitude of them couldn't help us get to where we wanted to go.
Jon Wertheim: You told most of these guys the more you jump in, the more room you're gonna make. "Those of you we don't run off, we're gonna try to make you quit."
Deion Sanders: Yeah--
Jon Wertheim: You made it very clear.
Deion Sanders: Yeah. Now, if you went for that, if you was-- were able to let words run you off, you ain't for us because we're a old-school staff. We coach hard. We coach tough. We're disciplinarians. So, if you're allowing verbiage to run you off because you don't feel secure with your ability, you ain't for us.
Jon Wertheim: If some kid said, "You know what? No. I'm stayin'. You're not gonna run me off with your words."
Deion Sanders: Right. Stay.
Jon Wertheim: So--
Deion Sanders: Prove it.
Jon Wertheim: I'm sure that your straight talk was appreciated by some. But-- is this scorched-earth policy good for-- for college football or for the kids?
Deion Sanders: I think truth is good for kids. We're so busy lyin', we don't even recognize the truth no more in-- in society. We want everybody to feel good. That's not-- that's not the way life is. Now, it is my job to make sure I have what we need to win. That makes a lot of people feel good. Winning does--
Jon Wertheim: W-- I-- I gotta push back on this. You're-- you're--
Deion Sanders: Well, push--
Jon Wertheim: --a father of college athletes--
Deion Sanders: Five, yes.
Jon Wertheim: If they called you and say, "Hey, we got a new coach, and they're tellin' me to get in the transfer portal."
Deion Sanders: I'd say, "Son, you must be h-- y-- you must not be doin' well."
Jon Wertheim: That's what you'd say--
Deion Sanders: "You-- you must not be doin' well because you should be a asset and not a liability." I'm honest with my kids.
His kids include Shedeur, the star quarterback, and Shilo, a starting safety.
Jon Wertheim: You guys have any idea that you were gonna be this good and capture the country the way you have?
Shedeur Sanders: Yeah.
Shilo Sanders: Of course…
Jon Wertheim: You did?
Shedeur Sanders: Yeah…
Shilo Sanders: I mean, we both didn't come here, have our dad coachin' just to lose (laughs)
A year ago to the day, we watched Shedeur, fling and zing touchdown passes at Jackson State.
But there were questions about whether he could do the same against stiffer competition. Well, in his first two games at Colorado, he threw for nearly 1,000 yards, without an interception.
Jon Wertheim: You were puttin' up big numbers at Jackson State. You're doin' it here against teams of the Big Ten…
Shedeur Sanders: Yeah, the…
Jon Wertheim: …Big 12.
Shedeur Sanders: Yeah, it…
Jon Wertheim: Must be gratifying.
Shedeur Sanders: Yeah, no. These two games was the most yards I passed for my career. So it's just, it's just excitin' knownin' that, you know, it translatin' like on a bigger stage. I just feel better.
He's also—and, again, welcome to today's college sports—translated his success into riches, thanks to NIL, name/image/likeness, income. So much so he drives a $190,000 Mercedes Maybach. And Shedeur might not even be the team's best player. Travis Hunter also followed Coach Prime from Jackson to Colorado. His coach lets him play offense and defense—virtually unheard of in the modern college game.
Jon Wertheim: You've got two really good Heisman-quality players on this team.
Deion Sanders: Yes.
Jon Wertheim: Your son and Travis Hunter.
Deion Sanders: Yes sir.
Jon Wertheim: First half of the first game of the season, you're already publicly talking about Travis Hunter's Heisman chances. Who does that?
Deion Sanders: A coach that loves his kids. A coach that understands that's what those kids desire. And I'm supposed to do that. That's what we told them when they were coming and choosing to play for us. My kids that play for me, they didn't choose a university. They chose me. That's a difference.
Coaches have chosen to join Sanders as well. The staff he overhauled and upgraded includes former head coaches and former coordinators from schools like Alabama.
Jon Wertheim: Now that you're a Power Five guy, who's the best coach in college football today?
Deion Sanders: Let me see-- let me see a mirror so I can look at it. (LAUGHTER)
Jon Wertheim: You feel that.
Deion Sanders: What-- you think I'm gonna sit up here and tell you somebody else? You-- you think-- you think that's the way I operate? That somebody else got that on me? But I tell you this, I love and I adore and I respect and every time I do a commercial with Coach Saban, it's a gift. Just sitting in his presence and hearing him and-- and throwing something else out there so I can hear his viewpoint on it. Because he's forgotten more things than I may ever accomplish. So I'm a student looking up to this wonderful teacher saying, "Just-- just-- just throw me a crumb of what you know."
For all the bling and bluster, there is some humility, and the current mania may die down a bit as Colorado faces a welter of tougher opponents the rest of the season. But Deion Sanders has invigorated a campus, a program, an entire sport.
And, damn, if he hasn't made it fun.
Editor's Note: 60 MINUTES first profiled Deion Sanders inwhen he was head football coach for Jackson State University. The CBS newsmagazine profiled him again for the September 17, 2023 broadcast after he took the job of head football coach for University of Colorado. Both reports showed footage of a neighborhood in Jackson directly across from the JSU football facility and focused on Sanders' career, the changes he's made to the football programs in Jackson and Boulder and the Sept. 17 story noted the differences between the two cities. In response to the Jackson City Council resolution passed on Sept. 26, we want to note that our reporting is not an exploration of those two great cities, but rather a look at the influence one man is having on both.
Produced by Draggan Mihailovich. Associate producer, Emily Cameron. Broadcast associate, Elizabeth Germino. Edited by Matthew Lev.
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