Will Year 2 be different for Colorado under Coach Prime? 'I see the want and fire and desire'

LAS VEGAS — White hoodie bursting from a black suit and gold chains slung around his neck, Deion Sanders waltzed through Big 12 media days on Wednesday, striding before a mob of media members, school personnel and his cowboy hat-wearing security guard.

And then, suddenly, Sanders stopped. A sweeping smile arrived on his face as he recognized the man standing before him: BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe.

Sanders quickly waved over his son, Shilo.

“Meet,” Deion said to Shilo, “the person responsible for your Dad’s success.”

For the next 10 minutes, surrounded by media members filming their every move, Holmoe shared with Shilo stories of his father’s days with the San Francisco 49ers. Holmoe was Deion’s defensive backs coach during the 49ers’ Super Bowl championship run in 1994, when Prime Time, as they called him, faced off in practice with Jerry Rice — a must-see event that fascinated coaches, players and managers through that season.

“Battle Royale,” Holmoe described it.

The main event of the second day of Big 12 media days transpired here Wednesday as Sanders and his two sons, Shilo and Shedeur, took their turn in the spotlight. But off to the side, removed from much of the hysteria, two old friends shared a touching and emotional moment — a welcome, you might say, to the Big 12 for Colorado’s head coach.

The Buffs enter the Big 12 after a 4-8 season in Sanders’ first year that left so many disappointed. They started 3-0 and finished 1-8.

What’s next? A rebuilt offensive line and a plethora of transfer portal skill players has Sanders, always the optimist, especially glowing about his 2024 group — his last with the trio of sons Shedeur (QB) and Shilo (safety) as well as Travis Hunter (receiver/defensive back).

“I see the want and fire and desire,” he said.

In the middle of Allegiant Stadium, Sanders took the elevated stage here much in the same way that his league’s commissioner, Brett Yormark, did a day ago — boastful and brash.

Donning sunglasses, Sanders sat before a quiet, somber room of media members who he told to perk up. “If I was in church,” he boomed, “I’d get up and walk out right now!”

He lauded Yormark as the best commissioner in college sports, describing him as a "baller, shot-caller and a boss." (Oddly enough, a day before, Yormark compared himself to Sanders as two "disruptors" in the college game.)

As coaches do, Sanders unfurled a recruiting pitch for all to hear.

“To you all who say we only go in the portal, we signed 17 high school players and 13 played,” he said.

More than two-dozen hands shot up at the start of Sanders’ question-and-answer segment, including one person who welcomed him to Las Vegas.

“I don’t gamble,” he insisted to the questioner with a smile.

Another asked about Colorado’s season-opening game against FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. Sanders playfully expressed anger at athletic director Rick George for scheduling the game.

“Can you give me a layup?!” he laughed on the stage.

Year 2 of the Deion Sanders Era begins with quite the blitz: that Thursday night opener against North Dakota State, followed by a duel at Nebraska and the rivalry clash in Fort Collins with Colorado State.

It’s a banger to begin what feels like a pivotal season for Sanders and the man who hired him, George.

Can he back up the big talk? It won’t be easy. In the 16-team Big 12, Colorado gets games against, arguably, the five top teams in the league. With games against Utah, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Arizona, the Buffs play the teams projected to finish Nos. 1-5 in the league’s predicted order of finish.

Sanders shrugs at the competition. He’s used to it, at least on an individual level. After all, he once faced off each day in practice against, arguably, the sport’s best receiver ever: Rice.

Holmoe remembers.

“He used to bait guys,” he recalls. “There are not a lot of corners that can bait NFL wide receivers. He let them go and the quarterback would throw them the ball and he’d catch up with them.”

Thirty years later, Sanders leads a team into a new league in a pressure-packed Year 2 with his two sons and college football’s best two-way player on the squad.

Is this the year?

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