Colorado’s painful end to season included fractured back for Shedeur Sanders

colorado’s painful end to season included fractured back for shedeur sanders

Colorado’s painful end to season included fractured back for Shedeur Sanders

A Colorado football season that started with a bang — not to mention plenty of national attention for Deion Sanders’s first campaign with the Buffaloes — ended in losing and painful fashion for his son, starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders.

A video released Sunday revealed Sanders sat out the Buffaloes’ season finale Saturday with a fractured back.

The video, produced by a media company run by another son of the Colorado coach, Deion Sanders Jr., shows Shedeur walking onto Utah’s field before Saturday’s game against the Utes. After Shedeur says he feels good but “can’t even throw right now,” an off-screen voice asks if the quarterback thinks “what happened” to him will be shared by Colorado after the game. Shedeur replies that he doesn’t think so, at which point the other voice says, “I want people to know.”

The video then shows the phrase, “He has a fracture in his back,” superimposed on footage of Shedeur walking out of the tunnel at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

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Immediately after the Buffaloes’ 23-17 loss to Utah, which ended their season at 4-8, Deion Sanders had been vague about the nature of Shedeur’s injury. It remains unclear when the back fracture occurred.

“Shedeur is hurt. … Shedeur’s been hurting for a while,” Sanders told reporters Saturday.

A junior who followed his father to Boulder from Jackson State, Shedeur Sanders set a single-season passing yards record (3,230) for Colorado but was sacked an NCAA-leading 52 times. He had previously been reported to have taken pain-numbing injections for earlier injuries, then was knocked out of a Nov. 17 loss at Washington State with what was described as an upper-body injury.

Shedeur Sanders could enter next year’s NFL draft, but he is expected to return to Colorado for his senior season. Deion Sanders said last month that it is an offseason priority for him to “go get new [offensive] linemen” to better protect his son.

As for the challenge of continuing to improve his program, which went 1-11 the year before he arrived, Sanders indicated Saturday that it would help if boosters could raise the funds needed for the level of name, image and likeness payouts that top recruits are seeking.

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“We definitely need giving — you know what I mean. It’s unfortunate to say this, but some kids cost,” said the 56-year-old former NFL star, who began his head coaching career with three seasons at Jackson State. “I have not charted this yet — I’ve asked for the numbers — but if you start thinking about the top several teams in the country, I see what was spent on assembling their teams. You know, we can sit here and talk about great coaching and great this and great that all we want, but it’s going to be a credit card swipe in some kind of way, with all these guys going to these places.”

Sanders’s recruiting fortunes have taken a hit in recent days. Two quarterbacks, one from the Class of 2024 and the other pegged to arrive in 2025, decommitted from the program, as did a touted running back in the Class of 2025, per reports. Earlier this month, after seeing a coveted high school wide receiver and an offensive lineman slip through his fingers, Sanders said he wished recruits were not able to visit other schools after making a commitment.

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“One thing about it is, we’re not an ATM. That’s not going to happen here,” Sanders added at the time. “If you come to Colorado to play football for me and the Colorado Buffaloes, it’s because you really want to play football and receive a wonderful education, and all the business stuff will be handled on the back end if that’s the case. But we are not an ATM. You’re not coming here to get rich unless you’re really coming here with a plan to go to the NFL and get your degree.”

The recruiting challenges, combined with Colorado’s six-game losing streak to end the season, have painted a picture of a larger-than-life figure grappling with the challenge of trying to propel a program that has rarely ranked among college football’s powerhouses. Following a run of success between 1989 and 2002, Colorado has had just one 10-win season and posted losing records in 16 of the past 18 years.

When Sanders arrived in Boulder, bringing all of his trademark bravado after boosting Jackson State’s fortunes, he provided a massive shot in the arm to a moribund program. The sense of newfound excitement surrounding the Buffaloes only intensified when they started the season with three wins, including a defeat of rival Colorado State that earned Sanders and Co. a second straight week ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press poll.

A 42-6 loss to Oregon brought a resounding reality check, and after temporarily righting the ship with a Week 6 win over Arizona State, Colorado coughed up a 29-0 halftime lead and lost to Stanford in double overtime. That Oct. 13 setback marked the beginning of a losing skein that ended with one final defeat at Utah, where an injured Shedeur Sanders watched from the sideline.

After falling to the Utes — which gave the Buffaloes the same 1-8 record in conference play that they notched the year before — Deion Sanders pointed to the greater level of competitiveness his team showed. Whereas the 2022 Buffs were blown out in almost all of their 11 losses and were outscored overall by a whopping 349 points, this year’s squad stayed within seven points in five of its eight defeats and was outscored by 80.

“We got our butts kicked twice this year, out of 12 games. … Every other game than that, we had a shot,” Deion Sanders said Saturday. “I think that’s progress.”

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