Colorado’s new ‘Chief Motivation Officer:’ Coach Prime takes the lead on ‘Ready. Set. CO’

Deion Sanders, legendary athlete, CU football coach, is helping Colorado reclaim its rightful place as the nation’s healthiest state
Aug. 2, 2023
Legendary athlete, Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders, is thrilled to be coaching the CU Buffs football team. He's also going to help Coloradans get healthier as our new "Chief Motivation Officer." Photo by Willie Peterson, for UCHealth.
Legendary athlete, Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, is thrilled to be coaching the CU Buffs football team. He’s also going to help Coloradans get healthier as our new “Chief Motivation Officer.” Photo by Willie Peterson, for UCHealth.

Get ready to move.

Along with leading the University of Colorado Buffaloes football team, Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders has accepted an informal role with UCHealth: “Chief Motivation Officer” for the Ready. Set. CO challenge.

The football and baseball legend is encouraging Coloradans to improve their health as the public face of UCHealth’s new campaign. Ready. Set. CO is a wide-ranging effort to reclaim Colorado’s rightful place as the healthiest state in the nation.

UCHealth decided to launch the challenge after Colorado slipped in various health metrics over the last several years. The Centennial State ranks 12th in America’s Health Rankings, a combined effort of the United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association, and 16th in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best State Rankings.

Sanders, 55, is the perfect person to lead a Colorado turnaround. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a two-time Super Bowl champion and an eight-time Pro Bowler.

After his own legendary sports career, Sanders devoted himself to guiding younger athletes. He started Truth Youth Football, then became offensive coordinator for Trinity Christian High School in Cedar Hill, Texas, where his sons Shilo and Shedeur played.

In 2020, Sanders became the head football coach at Jackson State University, where he led a stunning rejuvenation of the program over the course of three seasons with the team.

Sanders takes over a CU football team that lurched through a 1-11 season last fall. That team is looking for a comeback, just as Colorado is on the healthy-state front. Both the CU Buffs and Ready. Set. CO have found the ideal flag bearer.

Coach Prime stayed fit. So should you.

Sanders always has dazzled fans on and off the field.

Among his most remarkable claims to fame was the time he showed up at the 1989 NFL combine and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds, among the fastest times ever.

Sanders didn’t even bother to stretch beforehand.

Photo by Willie Peterson, for UCHealth.

“Have you ever seen a cheetah stretch before he gets his prey?” Sanders quipped afterward.

He was drafted fifth overall that year, became a perennial NFL All-Pro selection, and won Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. Along the way, he would be the only man to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series and the only one to hit an MLB home run and score an NFL touchdown in the same week.

Yet great athletes have no mandate to stay fit once they hang up their cleats. Sanders hasn’t chased down fly balls or wide receivers since 2001 and 2005, respectively. He could have just taken it easy and, like so many others, put on a few pounds as he rolled into middle age.

Instead, he has stayed active and fit.

Sanders watches what he eats to maintain a balanced diet. He stays hydrated. And he works out four times a week despite his high-pressure job and packed schedule. If it’s a priority – and what’s a higher priority than your health? You’ve got to make time for it, Coach Prime will tell you.

“I do dumbbells and other types of weights, leg presses, leg extensions,” Sanders said.

He mixes in cardiovascular work on the elliptical, and he rides his bikes.

“That’s something that I see a lot around Boulder and Colorado – bike riders. And I love it, because I have several bikes that I ride, as well, to give me the cardio I need,” Sanders said.

Behind the brash-and-flash “Prime Time” persona was an early-to-bed, early-to-rise, highly disciplined athlete who knew that, even given his prodigious athletic gifts, dedication and hard work were what really mattered at the razor-sharp margin separating the great from the merely good. He has subsequently carried that philosophy into his broadcasting and coaching careers.

It works. And it applies to Ready. Set. CO, he says.

“There’s no way you can be healthy in mind, body, spirt, and so on, if you’re not, first of all, eating smart and doing the right things – tough physically and mentally, emotionally, psychologically,” Sanders said. “You’ve got to be disciplined to accomplish anything in life, and then have a good character. If you say you’re going to do something, do it.”

As the Denver Post put it, “Competition fuels Sanders, but so does the opportunity to impact people’s lives.”

“We want to win in every facet of life, not just on the football field,” Sanders said. “We want everyone to be and remain healthy. Not just physically healthy, but spiritually, mentally, socially, and economically as well.”

Coach Prime views his team as much larger than the CU Buffs’ roster. With Ready. Set. CO, he has a vehicle to help us all get healthier.

“This is one of the fittest states in the country, and we want to continue and improve upon that,” he said.

About the author

Todd Neff has written hundreds of stories for University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth. He covered science and the environment for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and has taught narrative nonfiction at the University of Colorado, where he was a Ted Scripps Fellowship recipient in Environmental Journalism. He is author of “A Beard Cut Short,” a biography of a remarkable professor; “The Laser That’s Changing the World,” a history of lidar; and “From Jars to the Stars,” a history of Ball Aerospace.