A year after having fewer than 2,000 people in attendance for the annual Colorado spring game, the Deion Sanders era began in earnest Saturday as over 45,000 people packed into Folsom Field for this year’s version of the black and gold game.
Near-freezing temperatures and snow did not stop the sellout crowd from filing in to get a glimpse of the new-look Buffs led by their superstar head coach, who was hired in December away from Jackson State.
Sanders, donning a cowboy hat and wearing a t-shirt that said, “I AIN’T HARD TO FIND” and a jacket with “PRIME” on it, was himself much more part of the show than the actual football that happened on the field. The head coach was more hype man and emcee than play-caller – Sanders was mic’d up during the broadcast, took part in in-game interviews, conducted the band and seemed to control the volume of the crowd by merely raising his hands.
“I was amazed,” Sanders said of the Colorado crowd postgame. “It was a moment you’ll never forget.”
The former Florida State and NFL star kicked things off by allowing 98-year-old Colorado superfan Peggy Coppom to take the opening kickoff. Sanders escorted her up to the ball, which she kicked to a giant cheer. After the game, Sanders called Coppom the MVP.
“She was quick, her first step was unbelievable,” Sanders said. “She was very physical when she grabbed me and made sure I held her arm.”
If there was another MVP, it was likely the offense led by Sander’s own son, Shedeur, who followed his father and transferred from Jackson State. Shedeur threw for a couple touchdowns in the spring game format, including a 98-yard score to returning wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig.
Lemonious-Craig and Shedeur combined for 154 yards and two touchdowns, while Shedeur also had a rushing touchdown of his own.
“What did you expect? He’s a Sanders!” Deion said during his in-game interview when asked about his son’s performance.
Among many recruiting victories Sanders has already had in his short Buffs tenure, being able to bring former top overall recruit Travis Hunter from Jackson State to Boulder looks to already be paying dividends.
Hunter, a cornerback coming out of high school, will – in Deion-like fashion – attempt to play both sides of the ball as a wide receiver this upcoming season. On Saturday, Hunter was the recipient of another Shedeur touchdown toss while playing on the offensive side of the ball. During that drive, Hunter was targeted three times and, while on defense, he did not allow a catch.
The glimpses of star qualities players like Lemonious-Craig, Shedeur and Hunter showed Saturday may be a preview of what the bright immediate future could look like for Sanders and Co. But to compete in a conference where most of the offenses are equally, if not more, explosive, the Buffs will have their work cut out for them come the fall.
For now, though, the main takeaway after Saturday’s spring game was clear by simply glancing at the stands and listening to the noise: a new era of Colorado football has arrived.