The Shadow League
Since his arrival at Jackson State in 2020, head football Deion Sanders has stressed bringing exposure and visibility to HBCUs. Sanders has called out the separatism of the NCAA and how the governing body pushes for Power Five programs to have all the bells and whistles while acting as if Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) don’t exist. But that seems to be changing a bit with Sanders leading Jackson State and pushing for change.
At one point, there were no HBCU games on ESPN. Now there will be over 125 games aired throughout the 2022 season. Jackson State even had its annual spring game broadcast by the Entertainment Sports Network. Now JSU will have “College Gameday” broadcast from Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium ahead of its huge matchup with SWAC foe Southern on Oct. 29.
This is historic, as the only other time the hit show went to an HBCU campus was in 2008 when FAMU hosted Hampton. And it also caps a remarkable two-week run for Sanders and the Tigers.
On Friday, Sanders’ good friend and host of “Good Morning America” Michael Strahan came to the campus for the “JSU Takeover” during Jackson State’s homecoming weekend. Flanked by son Shedeur, a star quarterback plus the 2022 top recruit Travis Hunter, a five-star wide receiver and cornerback.
Hunter could have attended any program in the country. During the 60 Minutes interview, Coach Prime explained why recruiting Hunter was different.
“What he was gonna do was normal … That’s been done. Big-time recruit goin’ to a big-time school. But a big-time recruit chooses to go to Jackson State? Oh, that changes the trajectory of so many other kids. Now, they’re sayin’, hmmm, if it’s good enough for Travis to go there and play, it may be good enough for me. So, that’s a game-changing decision that he made for so many.”
During the interview with Strahan, the former football player asked how Coach Prime’s arrival has impacted a once dormant program. Prime tied it in with the entire Jackson community.
“This city is resilient. The city is a group of individuals who collectively band together and say — you know what, we’ve been through worse than this. We’ve been through the ice storm, we’ve been through this type of crisis. … They just want to understand the resolution of it and solution of it.”
Sanders was referring to the water crisis that hit the city during the late summer and still hasn’t been fully resolved.
Strahan also chatted with Shedeur and Hunter. The Pro Football Hall of Famer asked the reigning Jerry Rice Award winner what it’s like playing for the man you call dad.
“It’s really fun. A couple months ago, I didn’t understand or get why he used to get on me, yell at me … and stuff like that. The more I grew up, matured more, I know he wants the best for me.”
As for Hunter, he expounded on why he chose JSU over tons of Power Five offers.
“It’s amazing, just looking up to him and playing with him, it’s amazing to me. I looked at all of his film before I got here to make sure I got everything it takes to be who I want to be in life.”
For Sanders, the week began with a “60 Minutes” interview where he outlined what it’s like being the coach of the most popular HBCU football program in the country. “Change lives. Change the perspective of, of HBCU football. Make everyone step up to the plate and do what’s right by these kids,” Sanders said.
Asked about winning, Sanders said, “I gotta win in every facet of life. That’s what winning is. And we… That’s our natural odor. We don’t even use cologne (claps). Baby we a winner. We smell like winning around here. When you saw us on the practice field you walked and you… when we first met, you, you could feel that you shook the hand of a winner. You felt that. I know durn well you had to call somebody, say, hey, man, I just met Coach Prime, baby. Something about him, something. He’s magnetic. I’m gonna win. But not only win, I’m gonna dominate. That’s what I do. That’s who I am.”
Also, how he’ll continue to listen to Power Five job offers and analyze where JSU stands as a program in the next couple of years. Sanders has long preached about increasing exposure, marketability and visibility. That’s exactly what is happening at JSU, and HBCU football as a whole.
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