By Steve Rees
Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, now at the helm of the University of Colorado Buffaloes football team in Boulder, is a man of great faith, like the 1990 National Championship winner and Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney.
The central figure of a four-series documentary titled “Coach Prime,” Sanders credits God for his success in the National Football League as a two-time Super Bowl champion, as a Major League Baseball World Series player, and as a winning college coach at Jackson State University, before landing at CU.
In the Amazon docuseries, “Coach Prime” talks about his trust in the Lord through a life-or-death ordeal in 2021 when blood clots threatened his leg’s amputation.
His leg was not amputated, but he lost two toes.
An NFL kick returner and defensive back with a career 53 interceptions, Sanders says the Lord was with him throughout the health scare.
“That was one of the most trying times of my life,” Sanders says in a recent morning show interview about the series and his college-coaching success. @DeionSanders
An athlete proud of his physical attributes, Sanders recalls conversations with God about life, telling Him: “I know darn well you didn’t bring me this far for this.”
Trusting God without doubting, wavering or succumbing to fear during the trial, Coach Prime’s faith sustained him through life’s biggest challenge so far.
Yet, seeing his adult children at the hospital was as much a test for Sanders as it was for his family.
“When you’re on your back looking up, you’ve got to remain consistent with who you are and what you believe,” says Sanders. “That was a trying time but we made it through,” he says.
Suffering serious injuries in an NFC playoff game between his Dallas Cowboys and the Carolina Panthers in 1997, “Coach Prime” knows what another professional football player is facing on his road to recovery.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field from a serious heart condition as players knelt in prayer around him on January 2, and as a stunned world audience looked on.
“He’s going to be alright. I trust God that he is,” Sanders says.
He sees God working for Hamlin’s good, and for the good of our spiritually and politically divided nation. He believes the nationally televised injury that produced millions of prayers for a professional football player is a sign.
“Did you see how we came together as a country?” Sanders asks.
“(Hamlin) wasn’t Black, White, Hispanic, Asian; he was someone we all care about. We’re still together.
“It shouldn’t take tragedy for us to come together as a people. That’s what I’m on right now. I want all of us to come together and sing Kum Ba Yah,” says Sanders.
An eight-time Pro Bowl player over 14 NFL seasons, Sanders was physically and spiritually saved after a suicide attempt and an emotionally painful divorce in 1997.
Sanders writes about depression and repentance in his book, Power, Money and Success: How Success Almost Ruined My Life.
A Christian song about overcoming adversity with God’s love, “Conquerors,” by artist Kirk Franklin is part of Sander’s attempted-suicide testimony, driving his sports car off a steep cliff.
“I hesitated for no more than a second or two, built up my nerve, and then put the accelerator to the floor and shot over the edge of the cliff to end it all.
“That beautiful, custom-made sports car blasted into midair and seemed to hang there, suspended for a split moment in time, before it nosed down and started its crazy downward plunge,” Sanders writes in the book.
Sander’s mentor, friend and pastor, T.D. Jakes, of Potter’s House in Dallas Texas wrote the forward for (Power, Money and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life: Sanders, Deion: 9780849937767: Amazon.com: Books)
Sanders credits his debut coaching successes at Jackson State, a historically black university in Mississippi, to the Lord, as well as special teams coaches and players.
Sanders seeks to develop players who are smart, tough, fast, disciplined and who possess good character. “We’re implementing old-school principles that will produce professionals, not just professional football players,” Coach Prime says.
Credited with transforming Jackson State’s languishing program into back-to-back championship teams, Sanders says he already misses Mississippi.
“I’m going to miss so many people at that university, among the city, who were a blessing to me, my kids, as well as the program.
“If it wasn’t for Jackson State, then I wouldn’t be here,” Sanders says.
Criticized by some for leaving a historically black college/university (HBCU) for the Pac-12 and Colorado, Sanders is unfazed.
“That was ignorant. You’ve got to understand the people who are criticizing you. I never listen to my critics because my critics have critics.
“You’ve got to understand there are a group of persons that is not progressive. They don’t want to work, to subdue, to dominate. They’re just sitting there idle, pointing fingers.
“My crowd is people who have kids, get up ready to go to work, who try to make ends meet. They get turning water into wine,” says Sanders.
Of his wife Tracey, Sanders says she is a blessing. “Trust me, she adds so much to me. People either add, subtract, multiply or divide; Tracy adds and helps me multiply,” he says.
Watch the preview here: Coach Prime – Official Trailer | Prime Video – YouTube