All eyes have been on the Colorado Buffaloes this 2023 college football season. With head coach Deion Sanders and quarterback son Shedeur Sanders rejuvenating a program that went 1-11 in 2022 and hasn’t tasted success in a long time, they’ve become “must watch” entertainment from the field to the press conference room and far beyond.
Those keeping an especially close eye on behaviour in Boulder, will have noticed the repetition of a certain set of events prior to every game. The pre-game ritual that father and son perform ahead of kick off helps set the boundaries of their relationship, sets expectations of player from coach, and for those now party to the intimate details of their exchange, sets the hairs on end.
Let Them Know: The Origins of Deion Sanders, Shedeur Sanders Pre-Game Ritual
The Sanders pre-game ritual including Deion and Shedeur might be new to the eyes of college football fans and analysts alike, but this isn’t a gimmick dreamed up by the current Colorado PR machine.
Father and son have been walking the same route on whatever football field they call home, since the elder Sanders began coaching his sons at Trinity Christian High School in 2017.
From the outsiders perspective, the ritual is simplistic. Deion and Shedeur meet at the 40-yard line, moments before kickoff. From there, the two walk side-by-side as any father and son on a Saturday afternoon stroll might do.
Yet their destination is the end zone, not a bar or restaurant or DIY store depending upon your preferred way to spend a Saturday or other family time.
When they reach the end zone, head coach and quarterback turn and return to the spot from where their journey departed. At the end of their 80-yard round trip, the pair embrace, and assume their positions for the three hours of work ahead.
Simple. However behind their midfield meeting, lies an 80-yard walk and talk that draws the battle lines of competition while balancing the fatherly instincts of protecting and preparing his son for the challenges that life and football hold in store for him.
Sanders isn’t the first head coach to guide his son. High school football is awash with fathers who spent the day being “coach” and the evening being simply “dad.” It’s easy to wonder how you begin to separate the two roles on the day to day, and whether you even have to try. Perhaps it just works.
For Deion, the pre-game ritual is his way of setting those boundaries in as unique-a-way as you’d expect from the man with the “Primetime” persona and associated high-octane personality. In a recent interview with The Pat McAfee Show, the Colorado head coach detailed what goes on in that 80-yard walk.
“When we go down from the 40 to the goal line, I’m Dad, you know? I’m making sure he’s straight, how he feels, and all that. I’m the father.”
“When we touch that goal line and come back, I’m the coach,” Sanders continues.
“Now, this is what I want. Protect the football, you know. See the field. No late throws out in the middle of the field. Get everybody involved, keep your line energized. And, you know, take care of yourself. Don’t do nothing stupid. Don’t run, but if you’re going to run, then slide because we need you.”
It’s not earth shattering material. It’s not ra-ra shouting or ground-breaking Xs and Os analysis. But, it’s proven effective as the Sanders family engineer football success at every stop. However, that’s not quite the end of it.
In a scene that captures the essence of Robert de Niro in Any Given Sunday, with echos of Coach Bill Yoast’s impassioned “you make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans” speech from Remember the Titans, Sanders explains how his parting shot ensures Shedeur is fired up to go to work.
“It always ends with “let them know,” Sanders explains. “I want them to know our last name before we walk off this darn field. I say, “who are you?” and he says, “I’m a Sanders” and I say “Aight. Let’s go show ’em what we know.” Then we kiss, and we go to work.”