Deion Sanders on criticism of his move to Colorado: ‘I know my heart’

When Deion Sanders was named the head football coach at Jackson State University on Sept. 21, 2020, he made a promise to athletic director Ashley Robinson.

“He asked me to give him at least two years,” Sanders told FOX Sports’ Shannon Sharpe in a candid one-on-one conversation on this week’s episode of “Club Shay Shay.” “I told him, ‘You got it.'”

Fast-forward 27 months, and Sanders just wrapped up his final game as Jackson State’s head coach, a 41-34 loss to North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.

The 55-year-old Sanders, who is a Pro Football Hall of Famer and considered by many to be the greatest defensive back in NFL history what named the next head football coach at the University of Colorado earlier this month. He heads to Boulder after spending three seasons at Jackson State, at HBCU in Jackson, Mississippi.

[Coaching hire grades: Colorado gets an A for landing Deion Sanders]

His decision to leave Jackson State for Colorado has not been without criticism, though. Journalist Bomani Jones, who also attended HBCU, Clark Atlanta University, was one of several on-air personalities who shared their open displeasure in Sanders’ departure from Jackson State.

“He sold a dream and then walked out on that dream,” Jones said during an appearance on CNN.

When asked about the criticism he has received over the past few weeks, Sanders told Sharpe it’s natural.

“People were hurt, and when people are hurt, often times, their first response isn’t the response that should be given,” Sanders said. “They say things out of emotions and anger.

“I just thought to myself, ‘If I didn’t know who I was and where I was headed, I would believe some of those things.’ But I know me, I know my heart, I know my intentions, and I know God.”

When Sanders arrived at Jackson State, he set a goal to turn around a football program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2013. But his aspirations for the program went beyond its performance on the gridiron.

“I believed we could win, we could graduate at a certain rate, and we could treat these kids well and raise them as young men,” Sanders said. “That was the dream, and the dream is still alive.”

Over the past three years with Sanders at the helm, Jackson State amassed a 27-5 record, which included a pair of SWAC championships and a perfect 12-0 mark in 2022 heading into the team’s bowl game. Sanders, or “Coach Prime” as his players know him as, brought instant success and relevance to a program that hadn’t enjoyed much of either over the past decade-plus.

“I felt like we did more than we were expected to do,” Sanders said. “We just did it so expeditiously that it overwhelmed you and you thought it was easy. What would normally take someone several years, we did it in two and a half.”

Sanders opened up to Sharpe about the challenges he faced during his time at Jackson State, and what he anticipates in his move to Colorado. That includes coaching his two sons: Shiloa 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back who spent his first two seasons at South Carolina before transferring to Jackson State, and Shedeura 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback who threw for 3,383 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2022 en route to being named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year.

[Prime Time in Pac-12: How Sanders will impact Colorado, conference, sport]

Both Silo and Shedeur entered the NCAA transfer portal on Saturday and are expected to join their father in Boulder, which Sanders hinted at during his introductory news conference earlier this month.

“This is your quarterback,” Sanders told his new team, motioning to Shedeur, while addressing them for the first time. “He’s going to have to earn it, though. Believe that.”

That insistence that players must earn everything is at the forefront of Sanders’ recruiting philosophy. He outlined to Sharpe his recruiting pitches to 17- and 18-year-old prospects and why he has been able to have so much success.

“I’m not gonna give you anything and I’m not gonna promise you anything,” Sanders said. “My thing is … you have to earn every darn thing you get, and then you’re going to appreciate it more, want it more, and understand what it takes.

“I’m not trying to win Mom or Dad. I’m gonna be honest with Mom and Dad. We don’t make any promises. But my goal as a coach is to make sure that the boy you deliver us becomes a man .”

Check out the full episode of “Club Shay Shay” with Deion Sanders below:


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