FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Two-way starter Travis Hunter is already living up to all of his self-proclaimed hype, just like the primetime coach that he followed to Colorado.
“Travis is him, like the young folks say,” said coach Deion Sanders, a two-way player himself in college and the NFL. “Travis is it.”
And he was all over the field for the Buffaloes, making impacts on both sides of the ball while playing 129 snaps in their season-opening 45-42 shocker at 17th-ranked TCU.
“I went out there and dominated,” Hunter said. “A lot of people doubting me because I rated myself as the No. 1 Heisman watch list. But people are praising me now, because they know what I can do. They’ve finally seen what I see in my vision and what the coaches’ vision is for me.”
In a social media post even before the season, Hunter included “HEISMAN LOADING ….” with a photo of the sophomore in his Colorado uniform.
While only the first game of a long season — especially if playing both sides throughout — Hunter’s spectacular performance Saturday in the Power Five debut for he and his coach came against a future Big 12 foe that played in last year’s national championship game. He was one of 87 newcomers for the Buffaloes, who were three-touchdown underdogs in a midday game with the temperature just under 100 degrees.
“It’s hard on your body, but that’s what you’ve got treatment for,” said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound cornerback/receiver, adding that he was already ready to go again. “Whatever I can do to help the team is what I want to do. I went out there and helped the defense get a takeaway. I helped the offense get down the field.”
He made an incredible diving interception near the end zone after TCU drove 95 yards from its own 1 when still trying to take its first lead in the third quarter, and earlier broke up another potential touchdown pass. Hunter’s 11 catches on offense included a leaping 43-yarder with a defender draped over his back to convert a third-and-16 during a flurry when the teams traded TDs over six consecutive possessions in the second half.
The Buffs play their home opener Saturday against former Big Eight and Big 12 rival Nebraska (0-1). They will be the feature game for Fox’s “Big Noon Kick Off” national broadcast for the second week in a row.
Hunter was the nation’s No. 1 high school football recruit, and in the middle of the Georgia state playoffs, when he pulled off his first college shocker in December 2021. After being verbally committed to Florida State for months, he instead decided to attend FCS school Jackson State to play for Sanders.
While playing both ways as a freshman at the historically black college in Mississippi, he finished last season with 20 tackles, 10 pass breakups, two interceptions and a fumble recovery on defense last year, and had 18 catches for 188 yards and four TDs on offense.
When Coach Prime got the job at Colorado, which won only one game last season, Hunter and quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, were among the players who went west with him after the Tigers won their second consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference title.
“It’s just crazy because like everything that we’ve done in the past, we did the same thing. It’s just magnified now, we’re just at a bigger level,” said Shedeur Sanders, who completed 38 of 47 passes for a school-record 510 yards in his Buffs debut.
Hunter had 119 yards and twice came close to incredible TD catches while being one of four 100-yard receivers, another first for Colorado. He was the first FBS player in 21 years to have 100 yards receiving and an interception in the same game.
After he sprinted down the right sideline past second-team AP preseason All-America cornerback Josh Newton in the first quarter, Shedeur Sanders’ pass from midfield was in Hunter’s hands as he lunged forward before it came loose after falling hard into the end zone. Newton was called for pass interference in the opposite end zone in the second quarter, when Hunter still caught the ball but didn’t quite have control of it when his foot came down out of bounds.
There was another diving attempt on a long pass just before halftime, with Hunter fully extended to get both hands on the ball before it popped out when hitting the sideline near the 20.
“We missed him on two deep balls,” Sanders said during his halftime interview with Fox. “If he gets two deep balls, the Heisman is at his crib chillin’ right now.”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll