BOULDER | Deion Sanders rode into his fall camp news conference Friday on a scooter with a protective boot covering his left foot, visible signs of a recent health scare that the first-year Colorado coach conceded cost him some running speed. He vowed it won’t slow him down for long.
“I lost a few steps but I’m still ‘Prime,’” said Sanders, now known as Coach Prime after a sterling NFL playing career under his “Primetime” moniker. “We have some wonderful doctors, wonderful staff, wonderful trainers that are committed to give me help, as well as to the players and the staff. I’m going to run out with the team in Fort Worth. It’s gonna happen.”
Colorado opens its first season under Sanders at national runner-up TCU on Sept. 2, a prelude to CU joining the Big 12 next season after it leaves the Pac-12. He underwent a pair of surgeries in June and July to remove blood clots from his legs as well as to repair so-called hammer toes, in which the toes can become excessively curved or bent, affecting movement and circulation.
Sanders played through some leg and foot injuries during his Hall of Fame playing career but said his most recent health issues run in his family.
“They had nothing to do with me playing,” he said. “It’s hereditary, so people should know that. My uncle passed away with blood clots and my other uncle almost passed away with blood clots. My mother has blood clots. So, it’s hereditary, unfortunately.”
With his health problems addressed, Sanders has returned to full engagement with the job of turning around a struggling program coming off a 1-11 season. Colorado hired Sanders in December after a successful three-year run (27-6) as Jackson State’s head coach, and he undertook the most radical roster overhaul in the nation.
There are 87 newcomers on Colorado’s 115-man roster, a jaw-dropping 76% of the total. Some 90 players departed either through graduation, the transfer portal or simply left. There are 28 returning players, including 10 who were on scholarship. Fall practices are in full swing, begun earlier this week.
“The roster’s really talented,” said Sanders, whose son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, transferred to Colorado from Jackson State to continue playing for his father. “I love going to practice each day witnessing the battles that we have at certain positions. It’s unbelievable, man, and I love the depth that we’re displaying right now. … They’re really unified and they know what the common goal is and that’s to win.”
Sanders’ roster overhaul did generate some criticism because of the number of holdover players who were shown the door. Oklahoma coach Brent Venables recently told OUNightlySports that he didn’t like the way Sanders gave “pink slips” en masse to the bulk of the players he inherited.
Sanders brushed off the critique.
“Don’t care,” Sanders said. “Look at me. What about me would make you think that I care about your opinion of me? Your opinion of me is not the opinion I have for myself. You ain’t make me, so you can’t break me. You didn’t build me so you can’t kill me. God established me, so there’s nothing you can to do me.”
Sanders also said both he and his players remain unfazed by the tumult surrounding the Pac-12, which has been hit by a round of defections by some of its members to other conferences, including Colorado.
“I don’t care where we play,” Sanders said. “I don’t care what conference, who we’re playing against, we’re trying to win.”
Sanders added that when it came down to it, money was at the root of all the movement. He suggested there should be more understanding of college athletes seeking their own financial benefits.
“You know, this is about the bag. Everybody’s chasing the bag, and you get mad at the players when they chase it?” Sanders said. “How’s that? How do the grownups get mad at the players when they’re chasing it, and when the colleges are chasing it?”