He was one of the most charismatic and talented college football players of his era, and unsurprisingly Deion Sanders has carried those characteristics into his coaching career. “Coach Prime” begins the 2023 college football season as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes, but his post-playing career journey goes far beyond his most recent appointment to the top job in Boulder.
Deion Sanders Coaching Profile
- Colorado Buffaloes (head coach, 2023)
- Jackson State (head coach, 2020-2022)
- Trinity Christian High School, TX (offensive coordinator, 2017-2020)
- Triple A Academy, TX (head coach, 2015-2016)
- Prime Prep Academy, TX (head coach, 2012-2013)
Prime Prep Academy
At the end of a college football career that saw the former FSU phenom win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back while twice being named an All-American, Sanders embarked on a glittering NFL journey. A two-time Super Bowl champion who was the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, his high-stepping antics made him an instant icon in the league.
After a brief dalliance with retirement led to a final stint with the Baltimore Ravens, Sanders officially hung up his Hall of Fame cleats following the 2005 season. One of the most decorated players of all time, his innate knowledge of the game and infectious personality made him a natural candidate to become a television analyst, crafting a 14-year career at NFL Network.
At the same time, Sanders began his college coaching career. The former FSU defensive back opened Prime Prep Academy in 2012, with campuses in Oak Cliff, Dallas, and Fort Worth, and made himself the head coach for the football team that intended to play in the University Interscholastic League.
In a sign of his future roster-building philosophy, Sanders cherry-picked players from existing championship teams, a game plan which was in contravention of the UIL’s rules and resulted in the program being unable to field a team. Although those issues were navigated, the school closed in 2015 following a litany of non-football issues.
Triple A Academy
Following the closure of Prime Prep, Sanders — and a cohort of around 80 students — arrived at the Triple A Academy in southwest Dallas. The school had been a basketball powerhouse, winning the 2013 University Interscholastic League Class 1A DI boys basketball title. However, the program didn’t have a football program until Sanders’ arrival in 2015.
Initially hired as a marketing director, he took the reins as head coach, officially his second football head coaching role. The program was shut down in 2016 after receiving a third strike for what The Dallas Morning News described as “a major increase in discipline problems, decrease in attendance, lack of parental satisfaction, and continued teacher and administrator turnover.”
Trinity Christian High School
While he will lead sons Shilo and Shedeur Sanders into their first season at the FBS level in 2023, Coach Prime’s first official involvement with coaching his children came at Trinity Christian High School in Cedar Hill, TX. Following his previous head coaching roles, he took on the offensive coordinator job for the private Texas high school and helped deliver incredible success.
In his three seasons directing the offense, the Trinity Christian Tigers won consecutive Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools titles. Sanders helped the Tigers to a 42-3 record during his time as the offensive coordinator at the school. The former FSU star left the program following the 2019 season to take on his first college head coaching job at Jackson State.
Sanders was named the Jackson State head coach in Sept. 2020, beginning the most successful period in the Tigers’ history.
More than simply a head coach, however, Sanders set out to revolutionize HBCU football, attracting high-profile and highly-regarded recruits to Mississippi in an attempt to show that black players could thrive at historically black colleges and universities.
The on-field turnaround was emphatic. Sanders led Jackson State to a SWAC title in 2021, earning SWAC Coach of the Year and Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year honors while taking the Tigers to the Celebration Bowl.
In his second full season at the helm, Sanders engineered an undefeated regular season — the first in program history — and repeated as SWAC champions. He was also named as the SWAC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. However, the ultimate HBCU prize proved elusive, as the Tigers came out on the wrong side of an overtime thriller against NC Central.
After guiding Jackson State to unprecedented success, Sanders became a hot property in the head coach market. He’d been repeatedly linked to multiple FBS jobs, including at his alma mater FSU and fellow ACC program Georgia Tech, but in Dec. 2022, the Hall of Fame defensive back was announced as the head coach at the University of Colorado.
Sanders has very quickly shaken FBS football to its roots. His charismatic approach to the media, his plundering of the Buffaloes’ roster, and subsequent reshaping via the transfer portal, and impact on the recruiting landscape, have been seismic. Now, we’ll find out if his influence is enough to transform a team rooted to the bottom of the FBS in 2022.