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Deion Sanders Isn't Bothered by Criticism of His Coaching Style: 'I'm Brutally Honest' (Exclusive)

On the eve of the season, Coach Prime aims to turn around a Colorado Buffaloes program that went 1-11 last year and has had only one winning season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011

Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty

Before kick off this Saturday, Deion Sanders plans to run onto the field alongside his Colorado players when the team takes on TCU.

“The goal is, and the dream is not only to win the game in Fort Worth, but I want to run out and lead my team out of the locker room by jogging, not running, but jogging a little — a nice, little comfortable jog,” the new head coach of the Buffaloes, 56, tells PEOPLE.

It’s a lofty goal considering the retired two-sport pro athlete has been dealing with ongoing foot problems, and what he calls “a multitude of surgeries” related to the amputation of his left big toe and second toe in 2021. In June, he underwent a procedure to alleviate blood clots in both of his legs, and he’s been wearing a protective boot on his left foot since.

But Coach Prime is manifesting the gameday vision with his trademark determination, as he aims to turn around a program that went 1-11 last year and has had only one winning season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

Related: Deion Sanders Calls Out Players for Walking Away from Practice Melee: 'If One Fights, We All Fight'

For Sanders, it’s all about beginning a new chapter — and maintaining a steady focus on what matters most.

“Honestly, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm so engulfed with what we do and what we do, what we do, and trying to be dominant in what we do,” he says. “I barely watch any TV. If the TV is on, it's because I'm watching film on our practices. So I don't even know? When does the pro season start? I have no idea.”

So while he has little to share when asked about his opinion on his former team the Dallas Cowboys, or how his alma mater (Florida St.) will fare in conference realignment for that matter, he has plenty to say about how much he likes his chances this year.

Related: Deion Sanders to Undergo Surgery for Blood Clots in Legs: 'I Believe in Staying Right'

He’s got a familiar face in his son, 21-year-old Shedeur Sanders at quarterback, yet a retooled roster of some 86 new players including 53 transfers — the most by an FBS team in a single season since the transfer portal began in 2018, according to ESPN.

<p>Brien Hollowell</p> Deion Sanders

Brien Hollowell

Deion Sanders

When Deion arrived last winter following a two-year stint at Jackson State, he took some flack for cleaning house — telling previous players to “jump in the portal” in a now-viral video — but he was also commended by others for not sugar-coating how dire the situation was at Folsom Field.

“I don't care really,” he says about any pushback he’s gotten since his hiring last December. “I mean, I'm honest, I'm brutally honest. I think honesty is still appreciated in some cities and some states.”

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Plus, he adds: “I love challenges. That's one thing I've always been attracted to.”

Through it all, Sanders has made sure to pay attention to his own health — and that’s where his new partnership with California Almonds comes into play.

<p>Brien Hollowell</p> Deion Sanders

Brien Hollowell

Deion Sanders

“I was a person who always enjoyed almonds for the health part of it and how it kept me lean, my physical presence,” he says about the ad campaign, which will run throughout the NCAA football season. “You’ve got to understand, I've been through a multitude of surgeries, so to be able to recover from the exercise that I'm putting in now with strengthening my whole body and strengthening everything about myself is tremendous.”

“And just being in my prime,” he says, possibly pun intended. “I feel like this is the third phase of my life, although I'm a long way from done. It was like Prime Time. Then I went to Prime. And now it's Coach Prime, and I love it.”

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