When NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders committed to Jackson State as the HBCU’s head football coach in September of last year, he vowed to instill a culture of winning and pride into a program that had not captured a SWAC championship since 2007, and whose previous appearance in the NCAA Division 1-AA/FCS playoffs was 1997.
“We can be a pillar of all HBCUs. I’m foolish enough to believe,” proclaimed the charismatic Sanders. “We’re looking for players that are fast, smart, tough and disciplined…We will never settle for mediocrity ever again… I did not leave my 100 acres and a mule to come here and fail.”
In just one full season at the helm, the 54-year-old Sanders has kept his word. He has lifted the Tigers to the top of the SWAC East and can end JSU’s conference championship drought when they face the Prairie View A & M Panthers Dec. 4 at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 kicking off at 3 p.m. Prairie View is 7-3 and 6-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference West division.
JSU, which is 10-1 overall, completed its undefeated regular season (8-0) in conference play last Saturday with a 24-10 win over Alcorn State. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, was 28-39 for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and added to his candidacy as a finalist for the 2021 Stats Perform Jerry Rice Award, presented annually to the FCS national freshman of the year.
In his first season of college football, Shedeur, who was a highly recruited high school prospect out of Trinity Christian in Cedar Hill, Texas, roughly 15 miles from Dallas, where Deion Sanders was his offensive coordinator, initially committed to Florida Atlantic University before his father accepted the job at JSU. The award nominations are a family affair as the elder Sanders is a finalist for the 2021 Stats Perform FCS
Eddie Robinson Award, bestowed to the national coach of the year in the Division I subdivision. The Tigers are currently ranked No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Sanders endured health issues this season after undergoing foot surgery in September to address a dislocated toe dating back to his playing days. He was then hospitalized in late October after experiencing complications from the surgery that kept him off the sidelines for three games. Sanders is back using a motorized wheelchair from where he guides his team.
Sanders, who has been widely known by the nickname Prime Time or Prime for the past four decades, has been rumored as a candidate for several FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) head coaching positions including Texas Christian University of the Big 12 Conference. The FBS is the highest level of college football.