BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Deion Sanders stood up for Henry Blackburn on Tuesday after the Colorado State safety received death threats for a late hit that sent Colorado's two-way star Travis Hunter to the hospital with a lacerated liver.
"That's absurd for people to be threatened," the Colorado coach said at his weekly news conference. "I don't mind getting death threats. I get them every week. But a kid, it's not good. ... He does not deserve a death threat over a game. At the end of the day, this is a game — someone must win, someone must lose. Everybody continues their life the next day. Very unfortunate."
Blackburn delivered a late blow to Hunter’s midsection on an incomplete pass in the first quarter of the Rocky Mountain Showdown last weekend. The Rams' senior drew a flag for unnecessary roughness, one of 17 penalties the Rams committed in the 43-35 double-overtime loss to the Buffaloes. Hunter went to the hospital for further evaluation.
Sanders said he has forgiven Blackburn and so has Hunter, who doesn’t have a definitive timeline for a return. Sanders said there is no place for the threats directed toward Blackburn and his family.
“Henry Blackburn is a good player who played a phenomenal game,” said Sanders, whose 19th-ranked Buffaloes (3-0) travel to No. 10 Oregon on Saturday before hosting No. 5 Southern Cal next week. “He made a tremendous hit on Travis on the sideline. You could call it dirty, you could call it he was just playing the game of football. But whatever it was, it does not constitute that he should be receiving death threats."
Colorado State coach Jay Norvell said Monday that Blackburn, who’s from Boulder, and his family had their address posted on social media. Norvell also added that police were involved given the nature of the comments.
“I’m saddened if there’s any of our fans, that’s on the other side of those threats," Sanders said. "I would hope and pray not, but that kid was just playing (to) the best of his ability. And he made a mistake. ... Let’s move on. That kid does not deserve that.”
In his online streaming show, Hunter said of Blackburn's hit: "He did what he was supposed to do. It’s football. Something bad is going to happen on the field sooner or later. You’ve got to get up and fight again.”
Buffs safety Shilo Sanders isn’t quite over the hit. Hunter is one of his good friends and they trade off ordering food for each other before games.
“I really wanted to whoop that dude that did that to him, for real, after the game or something,” he said. “If I see him just around here somewhere, he got to watch out. But that really made me mad, just seeing him try to play dirty like that. That was crazy.”
Hunter rarely came off the field for the Buffaloes in wins over TCU and Nebraska. He has an interception and nine tackles on defense. He’s also caught 16 passes for 213 yards from quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
“I absolutely hate that for Travis. He’s a dynamic kid,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. "He’s got a special personality and obviously is tremendous on the football field. He certainly gave them an edge. I hope he gets healthy soon. I hate to not get to see him play in this game because he’s meant for a stage like this, the stage that we’re going to have this Saturday.”
As for who may replace Hunter, Deion Sanders said that's a difficult assignment.
“No one in the country that can fill Travis Hunter’s shoes,” Sanders said. “You've got to understand, he’s a unique player. He’s one of a kind. He’s the best player on offense, the best player on defense. That’s just who he is — in the country, not just on his team.
“So having guys step up, they've just got to step up and do the job we’re asking them to do.”
Notes: The Buffaloes sold out their Nov. 11 game against Arizona. It's the first time in school history the team has sold out all six home games. .... Colorado's game against Colorado State that ended early Sunday in most parts of the nation drew 9.3 million viewers. It was the most-watched late-night college football game ever on ESPN, the network said. "This is incredible," Sanders said. "The kids are getting eyeballs, they're getting viewers." ... Colorado safety Shilo Sanders was the Pac-12 defensive player of the week for returning an interception 80 yards for a score and forcing a fumble.
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.
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