The Deion Sanders Colorado football show rolls on at home against USC this weekend. Whether the Buffs continue to come down to earth largely depends on whether the Trojans will have the same animus Oregon did last week, but another 21-point spread hints at the strong possibility of a similar result between the white lines.
Sanders’s presence also hints at a similar audience outside of those white lines. Everywhere you look at CU games this fall there have been famous fans on the field. To name a few: Lil’ Wayne, Offset, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Owens, Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, The Rock, Kawhi Leonard and Key Glock.
Two national sideline reporters have had the assignment of covering Colorado at home at Folsom Field—even without the extra star power, a unique environment given its field dimensions. Expect some big names to be present Saturday despite the Oregon game’s result, as USC’s Hollywood-like draw and superstar QB Caleb Williams come to Boulder. Fox sideline reporter Jenny Taft, who worked Colorado’s first two games, will get a Williams-led USC team for the first time, while Buffs alum Joel Klatt and Gus Johnson call the game from the booth.
Covering Sanders is unlike anything else in college football. The Buffs coach is often flanked by security, managers, cameras aligned by his management team’s entertainment company, at least one member of that management team and a personal YouTube vlogger. Despite the hoopla, Taft does get to see him in something at least approaching a private moment.
“I’ve almost seen such a different side of him that I haven’t really seen of him in the intimate TV production meeting, which is so special,” Taft says. “It’s probably my favorite part of the job when you get players and coaches in that setting. Just because there’s only a couple people in the room. . . . So it’s much more intimate. … first thing Gus asked him was, ‘How are you feeling?’—because he's had all the health stuff and the blood clots. And he takes off his shoe right away. And it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Taft says her preparation for games hasn’t really changed, although the volume of material to comb through to find stories for the broadcast is different. ESPN’s Quint Kessenich, who worked CU’s second home game against Colorado State, agrees. The CSU-CU game was amplified due to the groundswell of hype after Rams head coach Jay Norvell’s infamous comments about Sanders’s sunglasses and both College GameDay and Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff being on site.
One of the most difficult things about covering any Colorado game is navigating Folson Field’s tight sidelines—among the smallest in college football. The dimensions are so compact Taft and Kessenich say that to maneuver during a normal game they have to go into the stands because there’s no room behind the team benches. Both say the students are fine to them, although they each have security to help plow the road.
“This time it wasn’t an issue if you don’t mind a little marijuana, but the students were really well behaved with me and I have no complaints,” Kessenich says. But logistically it’s a tough game for a sideline reporter. “To see everything—to see benches, to see coaches, to see players—you add to that Coach Prime’s theme and all the celebs, whether they were rap stars, musicians, actors, whomever, former athletes, the sidelines were overpacked to a level that I’ve never seen before. I’ve covered Ohio State–Michigan, I’ve covered big games at other places where alums are down there and ex-players are down there, but nothing to this extent.”
It could have been a sticking point for Kessenich during a key moment in the rivalry game when wide receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter went down, but he bumped into a member of CU’s media relations staff after halftime who was able to relay the news that Hunter had been taken off-site. The postgame involved careful planning to meet Sanders outside the locker room as they anticipated a field storming, but they couldn’t actually go inside because Kessenich’s wireless microphone would stop functioning. But it was during the game that Kessenich had to switch from sports reporter to entertainment reporter. Kessenich then got a chance to speak to Offset for a memorable internet moment.
Offset screaming “FUMBLE FUMBLE” in the middle of his interview 😭 pic.twitter.com/IC6H4mOAit— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) September 17, 2023
“I found that about an hour before the game [Offset was going to be there] and went down and spoke with him,” Kessenich says. “Man, he was the nicest guy. Super smart. Huge, huge football fan. Just, just really enjoyed spending time with him. You know, I got to meet The Rock as well. But you know, Lil’ Wayne obviously welcomed the team out. It’s going to be a cast of thousands, I think, at their home games, especially. I don’t think we were told about Lil’ Wayne. I’m not sure that anyone was. But that was certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
After the game, Key Glock performed in the locker room. Glock had a relationship with Sanders from his Jackson State days, when the Tigers dedicated a part of the stadium to Glock’s late cousin, Young Dolph. Glock presented Sanders with a pinky ring after the game in front of the Jackson State team. Glock has been to Boulder a few times, but told Sports Illustrated he’s not sure whether he’ll be there for the USC game.
Sanders’s relationship with Glock and Dolph started when Dolph recorded a music video with Deion and his son Shedeur at Deion’s house in Dallas. Glock says he enjoys getting to learn from Prime when they get one-on-one time.
“Real everyday life things, ya know. Like being a father and being a man that takes care of your family on and off the field,” Glock says.
There are so many unique aspects to the Colorado story. Taft says she’s curious about what type of interview she’ll get with Deion if the Buffs lose to USC. She already has seen him at his highest, when she thinks Sanders was choking back tears behind his gold sunglasses on the field at TCU. But beyond the USC game, how often will Taft, and Fox’s No. 1 broadcast crew, have Colorado as an assignment?
Besides Pac-12 Network mandated games, like vs. Arizona State on October 7, Kessenich believes the Buffs will be on the big networks. That’s even if, hypothetically, we get to Week 10 and CU is a pedestrian 5–5.
“I still think that they’re going to be on national TV every week because their numbers are so gigantic that the TV execs have to put them on,” Kessenich says. “What they’ve done the first three weeks of the season is unprecedented.”
If so much stardom remains on the sideline, the Buffs will remain impossible to ignore.