Getting to Know Coach Prime – A Brief Bio

Time to brush up on the biography of CU’s new head coach. If you are like me, you can remember Neon Deion Sanders all the way back to his All-American days at Florida State. Perhaps you remember Prime Time Deion Sanders as a star both in the NFL and Major League Baseball.

Or maybe you only know Sanders as a foil for Nick Saban in AFLAC commercials.

Regardless, you’re going to need to bone up on the history of this NFL Hall of Famer, as you will be talking about him a great deal over the next nine months as we wait for CU’s September 2nd opener against TCU.

College 

Sanders enrolled at Florida State University and played three sports for the Seminoles: football, baseball, and track. Beginning his freshman year, he started in the Seminoles’ secondary, played outfield for the baseball team that finished fifth in the nation, and helped lead the track and field team to a conference championship.

Under head coach Bobby Bowden, Sanders was a two-time consensus All-American cornerback in 1987 and 1988, and a third-team All-American in 1986. Sanders intercepted 14 passes in his collegiate career, including three in bowl games, and managed to return one interception 100 yards for a touchdown breaking Fred Biletnikoff’s interception return record by one yard. He was also a standout punt returner for Florida State, leading the nation in 1988 with his punt return average, and breaking the school’s record for career punt return yards. Sanders was honored as the nation’s best defensive back in 1988, earning the Thorpe Award.

His “Prime Time” nickname was given to him by a friend and high-school teammate, Florida Gators defensive back Richard Fain. The two played pickup basketball games together during the prime time television hour, and Sanders’ athletic display during those games earned him the nickname.

NFL 

Sanders was the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft, going to the Atlanta Falcons. Sanders played for Atlanta for five seasons, leading the in kickoff return yards (1,067), yards per return (26.7) and return touchdowns (2) in 1992. On October 11, 1992, Sanders played in a Falcons game in Miami and then flew to Pittsburgh, hoping to play in the Braves’ League Championship Series game against the Pirates that evening and become the first athlete to play in two professional leagues in the same day (Sanders ultimately did not, however, appear in the game that night). Over his five years with the Falcons, Sanders scored ten touchdowns (three defensive, three kick returns, two punt returns, and two receptions).

Sanders moved on to the San Francisco 49ers for one season in 1994, winning the Super Bowl while being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He then moved on to the Dallas Cowboys for five seasons, winning another Super Bowl title during the 1995 season. Sanders concluded his NFL Hall of Fame career with one season with the Washington Redskins, and two with the Baltimore Ravens.

For his career, Sanders had 53 interceptions, with nine of those being returned for touchdowns. Sanders also had six punt returns for scores, and three kickoff returns for touchdowns. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Major League Baseball

Sanders played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing left and center field in 641 games with four teams. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the sixth round of the 1985 draft, when Sanders was still in high school, but did not sign with them. The New York Yankees selected Sanders in the 30th round of the 1988 Major League Baseball draft, and he did sign with the Yankees, making his MLB debut on May 31, 1989. 

In addition to the Yankees, Sanders played for the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, and Cincinnati Reds, and remains the only athlete to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. During the 1992 season, his best year in the majors, Sanders hit .304 for the Braves, Sanders stole 26 bases, and led the National League with 14 triples (in only 97 games. In four games of the 1992 World Series, Sanders batted .533 with four runs, eight hits, two doubles, and one RBI while playing with a broken bone in his foot.

Bar Bet Winners … Sanders is the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, to hit an MLB home run and score an NFL touchdown in the same week, and to have both a reception and an interception in the Super Bowl. He is one of seven players to win back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. He is also one of two players to score an NFL touchdown six different ways (interception return, punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing, and fumble recovery). 

On Television 

Sanders began his broadcasting career with CBS, co-hosting the NFL Today pregame show from 2001-2003. He spent the next 14 years as an analyst for the NFL Network, headlining popular shows like GameDay Prime and Thursday Night Football.

Prime Prep Academy

In 2012, he co-founded Prime Prep Academy, a grouping of charter schools in Texas. The school was plagued by ethical, legal, and financial issues, and closed on January 30, 2015, due to financial insolvency. Initial enrollment was more than 1,100 students. Prime Prep had campuses in Oak Cliff, Dallas and Fort Worth. The school was established with the stated goal of giving every child a free laptop supported by the VSCHOOLZ program. In January 2014, Superintendent Ron Price turned over documents to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office alleging that hundreds of laptops had been stolen from Prime Prep. He later gave the information to the FBI. The school was closed January 30, 2015, due to financial insolvency.

Here is a Washington Post story on the history of the Academy.

Coaching History

Sanders was named the head coach at Jackson State on September 21, 2020, led the Tigers in his first game as head coach on February 21, 2021. In a season delayed by COVID, the Tigers went 4-3 in the spring of 2021.

In the Fall of 2021, Sanders led Jackson State to a school-record 11-win season and the first Southwestern Athletic Conference football championship since 2007. JSU went undefeated in conference play (8-0) and won nine consecutive games to complete the regular season en route to the SWAC Championship and the program’s first-ever berth in the Celebration Bowl. “Coach Prime” was named SWAC Coach of the Year, FCS Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year, BOXTOTOW National Coach Of The Year, and Black College Hall of Fame Coach Of the Year in 2021. His son, freshman quarterback Shedeur Sanders shone brightly in the national spotlight as his father, as he was named as the FCS Jerry Rice Freshman of the Year after passing for 3,231 yards and 30 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

This fall, Jackson State went undefeated in the regular season, going 11-0 overall, and 8-0 in SWAC play for the second consecutive season. Son Shedeur, heading into the championship game against Southern, had 3,063 passing yards, with 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions. In the SWAC championship game, Shodeur threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-24 win. Up next for father and son is the Celebration Bowl on December 17th, with father Deion on the sidelines.

With one game remaining, Deion Sanders has a 27-5 overall record at Jackson State, including a 23-2 record his last two seasons, with two SWAC championships – and two Coach-of-the-Year honors.

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5 Replies to “Getting to Know Coach Prime – A Brief Bio”

  1. Granted I was in elementary and middle school when he was playing, but I didn’t realize that Deion had such a good baseball career!

    Prepare yourself for lots of gnashing of teeth and whinging about Prime Academy from a few Academics.

    I will say… I’ve had texts from friends and coworkers asking my opinion about Deion that have never known the name of any former CU coach. The name recognition is real.

    There was also a story i saw about how Rick George made this happen from a lomg friendship with Deion going back to his playing days. Wild.

  2. Great write up Stuart, I forgot about some of that, I’m sure Coach Prime will do great things at CU too.

    I’m watching “Deion Sanders on Colorado’s Campus for the first time” on YouTube and of course they show him and his family arriving at the Championship Center and his and his family’s reaction to the indoor practice facilities are “We arrived Baby!”, in a very happy, but also in a soulful way.

    As they toured the facility you (and Deion) see that the Admin has been busy adding his name, likeness and information around the facility. Deion looks like he is really impressed with what he sees. If you’ve seen the facilities he had at JSU you’d understand, and I’m sure the Champion Center is far beyond anything from his college days.

    If he’s willing to give to his old school the way he did, why wouldn’t he help his players get NIL money? He could take less from sponsors so they will sponsor his players, wouldn’t he make that back in the long run when his team succeeds? His contract [supposedly] has incentives worth 40%, so investing a million in his players could make him millions in bonuses, raises and opportunities.

    And, I bet there are kids (and their fathers) that would give their left nut to play for Coach Prime. 😉

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