By Mardeio Cannon | OBSERVER Columnist

With the 2023-24 NFL season finally underway, I’m aware most folks are focused on how their favorite team fared in their first game and how they’re feeling about the upcoming season.

However, I need to take a detour about the NFL with this column and recap how two African Americans in two different sports are taking the county by storm.

Yes, I am referring to Deion Sanders, the head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes, and Coco Gauff, the 19-year-old tennis phenom, who has just won the U.S. Open.

Both of these two highly motivated individuals have stated publicity that their success has been fueled by their “haters.” For the uninformed, “haters” are people who are so intimidated or jealous of you that they must create negative energy or comments about your recent or impending success.

Sanders, the Hall-of-Fame cornerback with an outgoing personality, was interested in coaching so he took a job at Jackson State University in 2020, an HBCU school in Jackson, Mississippi. Sanders, with his son Shedeur Sanders as the quarterback, led Jackson State to the conference title during his tenure there. With Sanders as a head coach, he raised the image and interest in HBCUs.

So, when Sanders left Jackson State, many thought that he would get the opportunity to become the head coach at his former school, Florida State. After being passed over by Florida State and Auburn University, he took the job at the University of Colorado, who had only ONE win in their previous season. Sanders went to Colorado and cleaned house and brought over numerous players through the transfer portal, including his son Shedeur.

It’s not uncommon for head coaches to take advantage of the transfer portal where a college athlete can transfer without losing a year of eligibility. However, when Sanders was taking advantage of the provision, he was criticized publicly by head coaches such as Nick Saban of Alabama.

Now that the Colorado Buffaloes have won their first two games in upsets, “haters” are criticizing Sanders again for his brash confidence. 

If he leads the Buffaloes to a bowl game this year and the college playoffs the following season, I suspect there will be a bidding war for his services in the NFL.

I am also so impressed by Coco Gauff, that she is currently my favorite professional athlete.

This young 19-year-old young lady has the competitiveness of Serena Williams and the poise of LeBron James at a young age. All the naysayers can crawl back into the hole that they came from and keep quiet as she embarks on a tremendous future in professional tennis. One more thing, Gauff is not shy about her spiritual life and the role that it plays in her life. Go Coco!!