BNV BLACK PEARLS: Deion ‘Coach Prime’ Sanders makes it OK to know your worth

Some love him for the way he is unapologetic and confident.

Deion Sanders’ presence, as he flashes his signature smile, is bright enough to light a packed stadium.

At the same time, some of those same traits that have rubbed his critics the wrong way.

Love him or hate him, Coach Deion Sanders of the University of Colarado Buffaloes certainly draws attention, not just in sports.

This year alone the man also known as “Prime Time” has taken center stage by achieving success fueled by family, faith, and football. And in a world that often pushes Black people to be humble and subservient, we recognize Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders as one of the NABJ Black News & Views Black Pearls of 2023.

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, right, talks to TCU running back Trey Sanders after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. Colorado beat TCU 45-42. Photo credit: LM Otero, The Associated Press
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders, right, talks to TCU running back Trey Sanders after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. Colorado beat TCU 45-42. Photo credit: LM Otero, The Associated Press

Sanders’ journey has taken him from Fort Myers, Florida, to the NFL Hall of Fame.

Skeptics, also known as “haters” (many who have never played one sport professionally let alone two like Sanders), may have provided some fuel to the fire.

But let’s not give the critics too much credit. To understand Sanders the person is to understand that he’s primarily fueled by his family and his faith, in addition to football.

Family fuels Deion Sanders

On the family front, Sanders carefully keeping his five children on the path to prosperity.

Three of his children followed him from Jackson State University, where Sanders coached for three successful seasons. He now coaches two of his sons, Shilo and younger brother Shedeur, at the University of Colorado.

They have enjoyed great success in their inaugural season in the Centennial State.

Sanders’ daughter, Shelomi, is a basketball player at the same university.

Coach Prime said during his weekly press conference on Sept. 26 that Shelomi’s older brothers keep a close eye on the 20-year-old.

He jokingly noted, “She has a witness protection program with her brothers. She’s never dated and probably won’t get married until she’s 40.”

His son, Deion Jr., runs a YouTube channel that gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at his dad and increases the visibility of the Colorado football program.

Faith fuels Deion Sanders

The 56-year-old often talks about his position being God’s plan.

His faith has led him to many philanthropic and volunteer efforts, including mentoring young men.

Sanders has been a great father figure/coach to Colorado star wide receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter. Off the field, they share a love for bass fishing.

These themes do not generate much press, but the shows that he has executive produced for television are telling about him. These shows personify the theme of family, faith, and football with a little humor as the extra point.

His docuseries “Coach Prime” on Prime Video is in its second season. It shows how Sanders can use tough love without profanity to pull the best out of his players.

Now back to those critics.

Many argue that Sanders may be too abrasive at times. The case could be made as an unprecedented 71 of the team’s players decided Colorado was not the place for them when Sanders brought his baggage to Boulder.

Football fuels Deion Sanders

This brings us to football and what fuels the man once known as “Neon Deon.”

Let’s face it, if you’re going to have that nickname, you cannot be afraid of the bright lights that come with the hype.

Just like he did as a player, Sanders used the spotlight to make a bold statement about his team right out of the gate. The Buffaloes won just one game the season before he arrived.

To give you more perspective on the previous Rocky Mountain low, the last time the team sold out of its season tickets was the same year “Prime” was returning punts for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

In that Super Bowl, his team was the underdog, but they ended up winning.

Fast forward to 2023, Coach Sanders and his team were counted out by the critics. In the team’s debut, they faced Texas Christian University, the same team that played in the National Championship game at the beginning of 2023.

Let’s do the math: Colorado is coming off a one-win season; TCU is coming off an undefeated regular season; Colorado is a 20-point underdog. Very few outside of the campus had faith that the Buffaloes could pull off the upset.

Deion did.

When the clock hit triple zeros, Coach Prime and his squad shocked the college football landscape with an improbable 45-to-42 victory.

Coach Sanders believed in his team and had faith in his family.

His sons and his fishing buddy Travis Hunter did not disappoint in the team victory.

His son, Shedeur, threw for 510 yards and four touchdowns in the win. On defense, Shilo was the team’s co-leader with 10 tackles. Travis Hunter’s two-way dominance helped seal the win as he grabbed 11 passes and made a spectacular interception that left Coach Sanders (who has 54 career interceptions) in awe.

If you’re a fan of Sanders you can see a lesson in all of this: Have strong faith.

If you’re a critic, you’ll probably say, “Look at how they finished the season, losing eight out of their last nine games.”

Here is a question to ponder: How many college head football coaches can say they quadrupled their team’s win total from the previous season?

Sanders can.

Once again he has lived up to the hype, earning the 2023 Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year.

Deion Sanders has family that uplifts him, faith that has shifted him, and football that has gifted him with the ability to earn recognition as one of our Black Pearls of 2023.

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