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Deion Sanders vows to make Colorado ‘elite’ after leaving Jackson State

“I just want you to know we’re on the way,” Deion Sanders told Colorado fans. “Not to compete, but to win.” (David Zalubowski/AP)

At his introductory news conference Sunday as the new football coach at the University of Colorado — where he was immediately given a “Coach Prime” jersey — Deion Sanders brought all of the charisma and confidence for which Buffaloes fans could have hoped.

“All you want is an opportunity to win,” Sanders told reporters, team staffers, school administrators and others. “To compete, to dominate. To be among the elite, to be among the best. And darn it, I’m going to give you that.”

Colorado announced Saturday the hiring of Sanders, who is finishing three highly successful seasons at Jackson State in his first college coaching stint. The former star cornerback and Pro Football Hall of Famer, who earned the nickname “Prime Time” along the way, went 27-5 with the Tigers and led the historically Black university to the past two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, including one clinched with a win Saturday over Southern.

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Rumors had been swirling of Sanders’s possible departure for Colorado, and he confirmed them to his Jackson State players immediately following Saturday’s win, emphasizing the importance then of leaving on your own terms.

“In coaching, you either get elevated or you get terminated,” Sanders, who was twice named SWAC coach of the year, told his Tigers. “There ain’t no graveyard for coaches, where they die at the place. It don’t work like that. They’re either going to run you off or you’re going to walk off.”

On Sunday, Sanders reaffirmed his intention to see Jackson State through the Celebration Bowl, which takes place later this month and pits the Tigers against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina Central. When he does eventually take full charge of the Buffaloes, Sanders will not only be going up a level to the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision, but he’ll take over a program that has mostly been a Pac-12 doormat since joining the conference in 2011.

Colorado went 1-11 this year and fired coach Karl Dorrell following an 0-5 start, with offensive coordinator Mike Sanford serving as interim coach the rest of the way. Sanders thanked Colorado Athletic Director Rick George for having the “courage” to replace one Black coach with another.

“Because there are several African American coaches around the country that were terminated,” Sanders explained, “and they were not replaced by an African American coach. But you had the audacity to do such a thing. … I thank you for seeing past the color and the ethnicity, and seeing the man with a plan to bring you back to the place of promise.”

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“There were a number of highly qualified and impressive candidates interested in becoming the next head football coach at Colorado, but none of them had the pedigree, the knowledge and the ability to connect with student-athletes like Deion Sanders,” George said Saturday in a statement. “Not only will Coach Prime energize our fanbase, I’m confident that he will lead our program back to national prominence while leading a team of high quality and high character.”

Also coming to Boulder, Sanders strongly indicated Sunday, will be his son Shedeur, Jackson State’s starting quarterback who has thrown 36 touchdown passes this season against just six interceptions. A sophomore, Shedeur Sanders can enter the transfer portal and follow his father across the country.

During Sunday’s news conference, Deion Sanders pointed toward Shedeur and said, “This is your quarterback.”

“He’s going to have to earn it, though,” Sanders added.

Sanders could be bringing more Jackson State players with him, and he suggested Sunday that he was already landing commitments from other recruits to the Buffaloes.

“I just want you to know we’re on the way,” Sanders said. “Not to compete, but to win. Not to show up, but to show out. Not to be among the rest, but to be the absolute best. We’re coming to work, not coming to play. We’re coming to kill, not to kick it.”

Asked by a reporter if he had any “worry” about having to live up to the “electric” buzz his arrival has caused in Boulder, Sanders replied with a smile: “Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me? Worry? Baby, I’m too blessed to be stressed. … I don’t even wear cologne — that’s confidence I’m wearing right now.”

“We’re going to be good. We’re really going to be good,” the two-time Super Bowl winner added. “I do not worry. You need to worry about getting a spot in here the next time we do this, because there’s going to be more cameras than this. That’s the worry.”