Shilo Sanders climbing Coach Prime’s favorite kid power rankings

BOULDER — Just when it seemed like the window was open for Shilo Sanders to ascend out of the cellar, an entirely new contestant entered his name into the record.

Deion Sanders’ ongoing power ranking of his own children reached all-time competitive heights during CU football’s 43-35, double-overtime win over rival Colorado State on Saturday night. Shilo, a senior safety, made quite possibly the two most important plays of regulation, returning an interception 80 yards for a touchdown and forcing a red-zone fumble while the Buffs were fighting to stay close in the third quarter.

In a recent viral post, Coach Prime had updated his rankings with Shilo sitting in last place out of five.

“He is moving up,” the CU coach acknowledged after a four-hour classic. “He is moving on up like the Jeffersons. But Shedeur is straight-up balling too. … My kids rankings are tough. I’m the only one that’s honest about ranking my kids.”

Shilo was the MVS (Most Valuable Sanders) of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, until his quarterback brother rudely went “Brady mode” and snatched the attention, as usual. Shedeur led Colorado’s fourth-quarter comeback from down 28-17, engineering a 98-yard drive in the last two minutes to score the tying touchdown and force overtime. He finished the game 38 for 47 passing (81%) with 348 yards and four touchdowns, including the 45-yarder to Jimmy Horn Jr. with 36 seconds left in regulation.

“Me and Shedeur were just playing before (the game),” Shilo said. “We were like, ‘Let’s make it close.’”

Shedeur quickly denied the claim, blushing under the sunglasses he wore to his postgame interview.

“We like those high-pressure moments,” the quarterback said. “That’s what we live in, and I honestly wish the whole game was like that. That’s when I think we excel. In my own mind, I was thinking about (Tom) Brady. He does it all the time.”

With a flair for the dramatic and a knack for being charismatic that mirrors their dad, Shilo and Shedeur soaked up the glory of their rivalry win by sitting together for a joint press conference.

“At the end of the day, it’s entertainment,” Shilo reasoned. “Ticket prices was worth it today.”

As someone with the self-awareness to identify that reality about the sport that so many on the inside regard with dire seriousness, Shilo is also plenty cognizant of the cultural phenomenon his father’s program has become. Aside from ESPN’s College Gameday, Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff and CBS’s 60 Minutes all visiting in Boulder this week, the celebrity guest list for Saturday night’s main event was reminiscent of the NBA Finals at Ball Arena.

The Rock, Dwayne Johnson. The recluse, Kawhi Leonard. The rapper, Lil’ Wayne. Other A-listers were engaged online, such as LeBron James fervently tweeting from home about Travis Hunter’s injury.

The most surreal moment yet in a season full of them was the image of Weezy leading the Buffaloes out of the tunnel with a CU jersey on his back and a mic in his hand. In a brief pregame performance, Lil’ Wayne played the hits — but not his own. Coach Prime’s classics. “We ain’t comin’, we here,” he rapped. “It’s personal.”

“If I was the other team, I’d be so scared right now,” Shilo said afterward. “‘They got Lil’ Wayne over here; Coach Prime doing his thing; a whole animal running around.”

But this is where there’s a true plot twist in the power rankings. Just when Shilo thought he had his hands full with Shedeur stealing the spotlight vs. Colorado State, Coach Prime said in the wee hours of Sunday morning, somewhat perplexingly, “I love Lil’ Wayne like he’s my son.”

Deion even spoke with Weezy’s mother before the game, adding to the sense of apparent fatherly pride. (Coach Prime is 56 years old. Lil’ Wayne turns 41 in a week.) It’s more of a metaphor for the Deion Celebrity Magnetism at CU than a literal statement, but it’s nonetheless an additional threat for Shilo.

Defensive backs don’t get moments in the sun. Not as often as Heisman-trending quarterbacks or famous rappers, anyway. Causing two turnovers in the same game can be a once-in-a-career proposition, especially if one of them is a pick-six. Shilo’s place at the bottom of the standings might have been more a testament to the nature of his position than a commentary on his success.

When a safety’s 15 minutes of fame arrive, they must be embraced.

“I’m a coach, but every now and then, during a game, I have a dad moment,” Deion said. “And that was a dad moment, running down the sideline as (Shilo) was running down the sideline. That’s the most I’ve run in years.”

Deion didn’t know he had that kind of running in him anymore, after all the recent foot surgeries and all the pain of simply standing on the sideline. But he conjured the vintage Deion Sanders speed for a few seconds, just so he could follow his son down the field toward the end zone. “Seeing his joy,” as Deion described it.

Afterward, they shared a hug on the outskirts of a CU huddle. Coach Prime recognized a dad moment when he saw one.

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