“Do you believe now? Do you believe?”

   Deion Sanders bellowed out his question with a combination of his legendary swagger and more than a bit of righteous anger. The clip of Colorado’s brash new head coach’s dressing down of the national media blazed across the internet and around the world following the Buffaloes’ shocking, exhilarating, opening-week victory over No. 17 ranked TCU; the 45-42 final tally acting as Sanders’ personal exclamation point.

   Point taken. After finishing with only one win last season, the statement made by Sanders and Co. in the Buffaloes’ first win this season immediately rocketed them to No. 22 in the first regular-season AP poll, and rewards for Sanders’ stable of gifted and talented playmakers immediately rolled in.

   Describing the win that shocked the football world — and not just the college football one — Sanders appeared nonplussed. “It ain’t nothing different. Why would I expect something different? It was like that when I played, right? I’m just playing another game,” Sanders suggested. “I’m just off the field. I’m not on the field now. But I can affect what’s on the field, and I’m thankful for that. I really am.”

   By leveraging the transfer portal to all but start his version of the Buffaloes from scratch — only nine players remain from last season’s squad — Sanders earned the ire of rival programs and coaches; especially from ones that felt that his experience as a second-division coach at an historically Black college or university (HBCU) would not adequately prepare him for a leap to the FBS, Power-5 conference level, and seemed frustrated that Sanders’ energy and charisma sucked all of the attention that might otherwise have been theirs from the room. Sanders minced no words about where he thought some of those sentiments sprang from.

   “We’re going to continuously be questioned because we do things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable.” Sanders said. “When you see a confident Black man sitting up here and talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75 percent African-Americans in a locker room, that’s kind of threatening. Oh, they don’t like that. But guess what? We’re going to consistently do what we do, because I’m here, and I ain’t going nowhere. I’m about to get comfortable in a minute.”

   Sanders nodded slowly, luxuriating in his point.

   “I’m about to get comfortable in a minute.”

Explosive offense

   His offense looked plenty comfortable behind his son, Shedeur Sanders, who threw for a school-record 510 yards and four touchdowns on his way to claiming nine Buffaloes passing records in his debut, and the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week award days later. The younger Sanders didn’t do it alone, however. Two-way phenomenon Travis Hunter propelled himself into the early-season Heisman Trophy discussion with a jaw-dropping performance that included 11 catches for 119 yards on offense as a wide receiver, to go along with three tackles and a game-altering interception on defense as a cornerback, earning him the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week award. Freshman running back Dylan Edwards had a combined 159 yards and four touchdowns in his college debut, most of it after a fumble that saw him upset on the Colorado sideline, embraced by coach Sanders rather than being berated by him. Edwards, in his collegiate debut, made it a clean sweep of the conference awards for the Buffs after receiving the nod for Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.

   “It’s crazy that we put up [those] numbers,” Shedeur Sanders said, after noting that a 500-yard passing performance was beyond what he’d imagine he’d accomplish at Jackson State last season, let alone CU. Shedeur even admitted that the offense was still a work in progress. “We [weren’t] even at our best.”

   None of this came as a total shock, however, to the son of a man who’s succeeded at every athletic endeavor that he’d ever seriously undertaken. “You’ve got to understand our coach,” Shedeur said. “‘Coach Prime,’ my dad — everywhere he went, he was a winner. Every game, every opportunity, he took advantage of. A lot of y’all don’t have the same knowledge and experience he has. So how can y’all question what he’s saying? He’s been out there, he’s got a [Hall of Fame] gold jacket, he’s played in Super Bowls. A lot of people haven’t. So I feel like now y’all understand what he’s saying is real.”

Brushes with greatness

   The ‘Coach Prime’ bona fides that Shedeur discussed also means that the Buffs are replete with famous followers-turned-fans, both in the sporting world, and outside it. For Shedeur, it also means that he’ll have opportunities to pick the brains of living legends like seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, who the Buffaloes’ new signal-caller briefly worked with in the offseason.

   Brady texted Shedeur after the game with newer, and suddenly more important advice: “Don’t be satisfied.”

   “It was cool hearing from him, knowing he’s still watching and stuff like that,” Shedeur said on Tuesday. “Just working with him, it really helped me just understand: Don’t focus on the good things we did; we’re going to do that, regardless. Focus on the bad things, focus on the things that we [weren’t] able to do it at a high level. improve that.”

   The Buffaloes hadn’t been part of a Top-25 poll in September since 2003, and if they win their home opener on Saturday against longtime — and perhaps future — rivals Nebraska, they’ll be staring at a 3-0 start and a potential Top-10 ranking. Whether the Buffaloes are truly contenders or not remains to be seen; their conference schedule looks daunting, and the roster isn’t an entirely finished product by Deion Sanders’ own admission, but two big questions have already been answered: the roster overhaul has paid immediate dividends, and yes — the Buffs are for real.

   ‘Coach Prime’ never had a doubt about the first question. The “luggage” he brought with him to Boulder was indeed heirloom quality. As for the second? He believed that too, but he knew that his players still had to believe it for themselves — and to do that, they had to win. “These young men, they know now, man, if we ball out, we’re going to get the love that we deserve,” Sanders said on Tuesday. “And that’s all they want. They want the attention and love they deserve.”

   With another opportunity to dominate the national viewing audience on Saturday morning with a classic matchup in picturesque Boulder, Sanders could create another fresh batch of converts with a win, doing the unthinkable in the process.

   Sanders charmed the football world all offseason, and now his Buffaloes have surprised, dazzled on the field, as well. They’ve got everyone’s attention, and they’ll continue to hold it for at least as long as they’re winning. Even before Ralphie the Buffalo can take her first lap of the season around Folsom Field, for today at least, the University of Colorado Buffaloes have become “America’s Team.”

   Believe that.