“It’s About Balance” | Why Colorado Assistant Head Coach Gary “The Flea” Harrell Is So Vital To Deion Sanders’ Success

Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is doing great things as a head football coach.

From his great three-year run at Jackson State to his current position with the Colorado Buffaloes, he is setting the 1-11 team up for a dramatic turnaround and eventually a return to prominence in Boulder.

And while Sanders is the unquestioned leader of the program, the coaching staff he’s assembled is very important to his success. Of that group of quality assistants, no one has a larger responsibility in assisting Coach Prime in his daily duties than assistant head coach assistant/running backs coach Gary “The Flea” Harrell.

Who Is Gary “The Flea” Harrell?

Harrell, the former Howard University standout, is Sanders’ right-hand man. He’s someone that Coach Prime trusts to the fullest. Flea was even left in charge of the Jackson State program during the 2021 season as Sanders fought for his leg and life in a Jackson, Mississippi, hospital.

Harrell is also one of the most experienced coaches on Deion’s staff with over 20 years of stalking the sidelines. That includes his two stints as the head man at his alma mater, Howard.

Flea Added Assistant Head Coach To Title With Colorado Move

Although he acted as the assistant HC at Jackson State, there Flea was just the running backs coach by title. With the move to Colorado and Power Five football, Coach Prime gave him the new title. If anyone can handle both roles it’s Flea.

In a recent interview with “Thee Pregame Show,” Flea said this about his roles in Boulder.

“It’s about balance. Making sure that not only am I able to serve that role as an assistant head coach, I have a No. 1 responsibility to make sure that my room, my running backs, understand their responsibility in the run game, passing game, protection game and the overall scheme.”

Harrell also talked about how he approaches leading the running back room.

“You set the culture, set the standard of how we practice, how we move around, as far as being on time for meetings and off the field stuff.”


Setting a standard that his position players follow is something that Harrell stresses, and that in turn carries over to the rest of the team. In the words of the rap group “The Migos,” Harrell sets the trend.

What Does Flea Harrell Look For In A Running Back?

After guiding transfer running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson to nearly 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging over 5 yards per carry, Harrell will have a mixture of Colorado holdovers and some newcomers, including talented 2023 four-star running back Dylan Edwards, who flipped from Notre Dame to join Coach Prime in Boulder.

Harrell is excited for the challenge.

“You want a room full of guys that understand what we’re trying to get accomplished,” he said. “You know there’s one guy that’s probably going to get the bulk of the reps, but you need two good backs. But make sure everyone else feels supported, still being ready for that opportunity so when your opportunity comes, be ready to shine.”

“Just a good feel, a good chemistry of leadership, good spirit in the room so you can teach” Harrell added. “Then you go on the field and have fun and it shows.”

Flea understands that his job is to always be one step ahead of Coach Prime, to know how he’s thinking and prepare the others for what needs to be accomplished. It’s a daily grind, but Deion couldn’t have chosen anyone better to handle that role in addition to coaching up the running backs.

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