FORT WORTH, Texas – The notion of Deion Sanders’s Colorado as some ephemeral spectacle of novelty and gimmickry took a hasty hike from the national discussion Saturday, replaced with fresh, fetching thoughts such as these:
Home – Nebraska, Sept. 9
Home – Colorado State, Sept. 16
Away – Oregon, Sept. 23
Home – Southern California, Sept. 30
That’s the Buffaloes’ schedule just up ahead, and those dates became worthy of unusual attention at just about the time Colorado players and coaches began hugging each other on the sideline of a hot Saturday at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. The home Horned Frogs had brought their No. 17 ranking and their memories of a national runner-up finish last season to a new go-round, then had gone submerged in a deluge of numbers, the most pertinent the 45-42 score that made Sanders 1-0 at Colorado.
After the deluge of numbers – Shedeur Sanders’s 510 yards passing and four touchdowns, Dylan Edwards’s five catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns (plus one rushing), Jimmy Horn Jr.’s 11 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, remarkable two-way force Travis Hunter’s 11 catches for 119 yards, Xavier Weaver’s six catches for 118 yards – came the deluge of I-told-you-so’s, like choruses through the stadium catacombs. Even if Colorado had faced only a drizzle of slights because the Sanderses et al. had relocated last offseason from Jackson State and the Southwestern Athletic Conference and an HBCU and detonated a Colorado roster that had gone 1-11 last year, it sounded as if they had pinpointed them, sifted them out, harvested them and manufactured them into a barrage. It rang especially in the separate news conferences of father and son Deion and Shedeur Sanders, beginning with the 56-year-old Sanders and his lifelong mastery of news conference art as one of the most famous players ever and continuing with the 21-year-old Sanders and his unmistakable comfort in TV lights, beginning Saturday when he used his phone camera to ensure there was nothing stuck in his teeth.
“I got all my receipts, too,” the coach said as he walked in, referring to the slights. “Should I pull out all my receipts now?”
“I feel like now a lot of y’all understand what he’s saying,” Shedeur Sanders said of Deion Sanders.
“A lot of guys being doubted,” Deion Sanders said of Shedeur Sanders and others. “One of them came from an HBCU. I think he had 510 passing yards in a Power Five football game. He happens to be my son, and I’m proud of him.”
“I mean, I knew we were going to do this,” Shedeur Sanders said. “The scoreboard is just telling y’all now.”
“For real?” Deion Sanders said. “Shedeur Sanders? From an HBCU? The one who played at Jackson State last year?”
“I was just a SWAC player, like, two weeks ago,” Shedeur Sanders said.
“Uh, yeah,” Hunter said. “We kept receipts.”
Deion Sanders concluded: “We’ve got a couple guys should be front-runners for the Heisman right now. That’s what I think. Who did that? Who did what they did today?”
That kind of chatter might start with Hunter, the cornerback and wide receiver who went all Shohei Ohtani on the game as he reckoned he approached the 120 snaps he called his personal record from high school in Georgia, from which he became the nation’s most coveted recruit in 2022, when Sanders luring him to Jackson State became a big, big deal. Hunter made hard catches among his 11, including a 43-yard wrestle for a flying Sanders pass on third and 16 in the fourth quarter, enabling Colorado to persist with its six-play, 75-yard drive that provided a 38-35 lead with 7:36 left. And he made a whiplash interception just as TCU visited the doorstep of the end zone in the third quarter, when TCU quarterback Chandler Morris saw wide receiver Major Everhart clearly open on the right, but then Hunter turned up – rapidly.
“I was supposed to be in man (coverage),” he said, “but I’m looking at the quarterback and I’m thinking, ‘I remember this play from practice.’ ” Thus he took two steps to his right but then reversed and bolted left with a quickness that almost seemed to trick the eye.
“Ain’t no different,” Hunter said of playing Football Championship Subdivision football or Power Five football. “Football is football no matter who’s playing.”
“He’s been the same since last year,” Shedeur Sanders said of Hunter at Jackson State. “It’s just crazy because everything we’ve done in the past, we’re doing the same thing and it’s just magnified a lot more.”
But can he play two ways all the way?
“Can he?” Deion Sanders said. “I tried to tell you.”
“It’s fun,” Hunter said. “It’s hard on your body, but that’s what you’ve got treatment for.”
He’s a standout but not exactly a Godzilla of one given Colorado’s zigzagging array of receivers fielding balls from short routes. Edwards, for one, shined from his 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and one year after playing for Derby High in Kansas. He took a short thing to the right early in the third quarter and began weaving until former Navy linebacker Johnny Hodges became the last man plausibly chasing but could only nip the heels. And he, Edwards, took a fourth-and-two pass from Sanders, looped over a blitzer on the left with 41/2 minutes left and hurried down the left sideline like a blur.
It went from a pivotal play of the game to a pivotal play of the game, from a key juncture to a 46-yard touchdown pass that completed the scoring.
“I knew I could make plays out there,” Edwards said. “We prepared well. So when I got the ball, I was just reading my blocks, trying to get to the end zone.”
Their path to mirth still needed a tackle, of all things, and safety Myles Slusher got that on TCU’s final gasp, stopping tight end Jared Wiley for seven yards on a fourth down that asked for nine. Then the Buffaloes’ sideline could commence its hugs among coaches, among players, among players and coaches. “You just see everybody hug each other, saying that you love each other, but (saying) we’ve got to do it next week,” Edwards said.
Sanders got emotional, but he also got going as soon as he could to the training room, because his leg and foot issues with circulation had left him “in a lot of pain. I had to go get myself taken care of.”
Once he did that and sons Shedeur and (safety) Shilo visited him for “a dad moment” in the training room, he emerged to speak, and speak he did, chiding some reporters and thanking others – after asking that somebody turn off the music blaring from a back hallway so he could be heard.
“I’m a winner,” he said. “We’re going to end up winning.”
“At the end of the day, I knew I had his back,” Shedeur Sanders said. “Everything he’s saying, I’m going to back it up.”
“We’re going to continue to be questioned,” Deion Sanders said, “because we do things that have never been done.”
And as that prediction about getting questioned sounded almost like a request, and as even more people primed to pay attention, Deion Sanders said on a hot and heady Saturday in Texas, “I’m about to get comfortable with winning.”