It’s tough being the coach’s kid. And it’s tough being the coach when your kid is on the team. There are expectations to meet and rumors to ignore. It’s tougher when your son is the starting quarterback. And when you coach him on national TV every week. And, oh yeah, if said dad is the practically larger-than-life Deion Sanders, head coach at the University of Colorado, who was arguably the best defensive back in history, who once attempted to play in an NFL game and MLB playoff game in different cities on the same day and has been one of sports’ biggest personalities dating back to the 1980s and 90s when he earned nicknames like “Primetime” and “Neon Deion.”
To their credit, Deion and Shedeur Sanders seem to be handling the situation well. After two successful seasons together at Jackson State University, the father-son duo headed to the University of Colorado this year, where they’ve become the main characters in college football’s story of the season, and are also joined on the field by safety Shilo Sanders, Deion’s son and Shedeur’s brother.
After earning just a single W last season, the Buffaloes are currently 3-1, and Deion Sanders — or “Coach Prime” as he’s better known — has been everywhere. His pep talks are splashed across social media, he’s constantly a topic on sports talk shows. Thousands of words have been written about his hype-worthy sunglasses alone. He was even interviewed by 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago.
The pressure is palpable. So how do they manage it all? Amidst all the swagger and success, Deion and Sheddur rely on a unique pregame ritual established years ago. It’s a simple act that keeps father and son centered and grounded: Just before kickoff, they meet at the 40-yard line and walk to the end zone and back together. They walk. They talk. They check in with one another.
“When we go down from the 40 to the goal line, I’m dad, you know,” Deion recently told Pat McAfee. “I’m making sure he’s straight, how he feel and all that. I’m the father.”
When father and son reach the goal line and head back to the 40-yard line, Deion flips the switch to coach mode to ensure his quarterback is ready to go. That’s when Coach Prime offers his final bits of game-day wisdom.
Now, this is what I want. Protect the football, you know. See the field. No late throws out in the middle of the field. Get everybody involved, keep your line energized. And, you know, take care of yourself. Don’t do nothing stupid. Don’t run, but if you’re going to run, then slide because we need you, are some of the nuggets of advice he doles out.
As the walk ends, before he and Sheddur head into the pressure cooker of game time, where fans and the media will put every decision they make under a microscope, Deion takes a hybrid approach and plays both coach and dad. And he wants it known that, no matter how hard of a line he tries to draw between his dual roles in Shaddur’s life, he’ll always be dad and coach, as opposed to dad or coach.
“It always ends with ‘let them know.’ I want them to know our last name before we walk off this territory,” Deion explained to McAfee. “And he say, ‘I’m a Sanders.’ And I say, ‘Alright. Let’s go show them what we know. And we kiss. And we go to work.’”
Watch Coach Prime now on Amazon Prime Video.