The last official weekend of summer featured a highly anticipated in-state rivalry here in Colorado called the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” – a contest between the University of Colorado Buffaloes and the Colorado State Rams.

The hype for the game didn’t disappoint as the Buffaloes edged out the Rams in double overtime.

The agitating group, famous for harassing people of faith, took issue with the following “Coach Prime” prayer that was captured on video and shown on YouTube:

“Lord, we thank You for this day, Father, for this opportunity as a group,” Sanders prayed. “Father, we thank You for the movement that God has put us in place to be in charge of. We thank You for each player here, each coach, each family. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

Coach Sanders wisely ignored the harassment. Our friends at First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to defending First Amendment principles, went on the offense on his behalf, and rightly pointed out that it was the organization that was the guilty party.

“We write to correct the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s misstatements regarding the requirements imposed by the First Amendment on public school employees’ religious expression,” First Liberty wrote. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public school employees may engage in religious expression and exercise; therefore, public universities like CU may not target Coach Sanders (or other members of the football staff) for exercising constitutional rights on campus.”

The Sanders interest and attention extends beyond matters of faith and football, and includes the joy of family.

The Buffaloes’ quarterback is Shadeur Sanders, Coach Sanders’ son. Another son, Shilo, is a defensive back for the Buffaloes. In the team’s opening win against Texas Christian, Shadeur broke nine school records, including most passing yards (510) in a game.

Speaking with CBS News’ Romi Bean this past week, Coach Sanders reflected on how special it is to be coaching his sons, but that it also comes with some added tension. After Coach Prime took Shadeur out of last week’s game against Nebraska with some time still left, Shilo pressed to have his father put his brother back in the game so he could eclipse 400 yards of passing. The father refused. “I already took him out, son,” he told him. “I can’t put him back in.’” Shadeur finished the game with 392 passing yards.

As a first-year coach who inherited a program that went 1-11 last season, Coach Sanders completely revamped his squad, welcoming over 50 new players via the “transfer portal” – a college record. His blunt assessment of the previous lineup and the overnight transformation of the team elicited plenty of controversy, but the former NFL and MLB star was unfazed.

“We already know what we have coming in, y’all just don’t know what we have,” he said. “There is no way we can put new furniture in this beautiful home if we don’t clean out the old furniture. And that is not a shot.”

Expect to see a lot more of Deion Sanders this season, especially if the Colorado Buffaloes keep winning. “ESPN College GameDay” will be in Boulder tomorrow to highlight the contest, and the hype and energy will be high. But whether a “Coach Prime” or football fan or not, Christians can still applaud the attitude we’re seeing on the sidelines and elsewhere.

“I don’t believe you can be at your optimum without your faith,” Coach Sanders wrote in his memoir. “Sports is sports, it’s a game. My faith is everything. It’s the gas that propels the courage, the truth, keeps me going. It’s the wind, it’s the wings, it’s the air that pumps into my lungs that provokes me to live. Faith is everything.”

Amen and amen.


Photo from Getty.