By Tim Ward,
Mississippi Link Spots Writer,
In his first full season, technically second season as Jackson State’s head football coach, Deion Sanders was named the SWAC Coach of the year. Coach Prime went undefeated in SWAC play and at the time of the award, had only lost one game all season. That was a 5 point loss to Unsiversity of Louisiana Monroe Warhawks.
The “COTY” as Coach Prime referred to it as, was a fitting tribute to his hard work, dedication and success of Jackson State. Coach Prime was also awarded the Stats Perform FCS Eddie Robinson Award, presented to the national coach of the year in the Division I subdivision. Despite missing three games due to his foot surgery, Sanders’ staff kept the ship moving forward.
Adding more hardware to the Sanders family was his son, freshman quarterback Shedeur Sanders. Sanders would capture the SWAC freshman of the year award along with the 2021 Jerry Rice Award for the top freshman in FCS. Shedeur started every game this season, completed 68% of his passes for over 3000 yards, 29 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions.
The awards kept coming for the Tigers, Jackson State had four first-team all-SWAC selections in defensive end James Houston, linebacker Aubrey Miller, defensive lineman Antwan Owens and return specialist Isaiah Bolden. Rounding out the second team all-SWAC selections were, Shedeur Sanders, defensive back Shilo Sanders, offensive lineman Tony Gray, receiver Keith Corbin III and linebacker Keonte Hampton.
Sanders brought national attention to not just the SWAC, but HBCUs in general. His effect and willingness to allow his stature to galvanize and influence how people look at HBCUs has stretched far beyond expectations.
Eddie George is the head coach at Tennessee State University. Recently, Hue Jackson was named head coach at Grambling State University.
Jackson, not only brings NFL cache to the SWAC but a boatload of coaching experience. Jackson was a head coach twice in the NFL, with the Raiders and Browns respectively. Sanders, George and Jackson lend credibility, but more importantly, they bring national exposure to HBCUs.
HBCU games were on ESPN’s family of networks all season and the Crickets Celebration Bowl game was on ABC. That’s a huge recruiting tool that seems to be working; working to the point where Jackson State signed the #1 ranked high school player in the country. Coach Prime flipped him from Florida State which rubbed Seminole fans the wrong way. Some called Sanders a traitor for taking the recruit from Florida State since he played there himself.
Who is the number player and historic player? Travis Hunter, a wide receiver and defensive back from Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill High School, who’s 6’1” and 180 pounds. Hunter helped lead his school to the state championship this season. All the big time schools wanted him. Coach Prime got him.
More recruiting magic is going on in the SWAC. The number 1 ranked JUCO player in the country has signed with Mississippi Valley State. Jamari Jones, a quarterback from East Mississippi Community College, shocked the landscape signing with the Delta Devils. “Don’t Ask me Why Valley, Just Watch This … Like Deion said, Let’s Level The Playing, Field,” Jones said on his facebook page.
Players like Hunter and Jones are making it easy for top caliber athletes to come to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Couple that with the NIL deals that players can sign, this could be a major shift in recruiting. “NIL” deals allow players to get paid off their Name, Image, and Likeness. JSU quarterback Shedeur Sanders has a deal with Beats by Dre and recently was signed to a deal by Tom Brady’s Brady Brand campaign.
Before this season came to a close, Jackson State had one more game left. That was this past Saturday in Atlanta. Affectionally dubbed, Jackatlanta on social media. Tiger Nation packed the Mercedes Benz Dome in Atlanta with hopes of seeing their Tigers bring home one more trophy capping a great season.
The Tigers would have to do battle with the South Carolina State Bulldogs, representing the MEAC conference. With over 49,000 in attendance and 2.5 million viewers watching on television, the Bulldogs dominated the Tigers.
Jackson State would score first taking an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The Darkside Defense held their own in the first half only yielding 10 points. The slow starting offense that’s haunted Jackson State all season, hurt the team on Saturday.
QB Shedeur Sanders had an uncharacteristic turnover day with 2 interceptions and one fumble. Going into the game, Jackson State was a 10 point favorite. They lost by 21, 31 to 10.
Wide receiver Shaq Davis of South Carolina State was the game’s offensive MVP scoring 3 touchdowns. Jackson State’s defense could’ve been tired from being on the field so much because the defense had not allowed 31 points all season.
Shedeur Sanders finished the game with 175 yards passing on 16 of 36 passes with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. James Houston, SWAC newcomer of the year finished the game with 6 tackles and 2 sacks.
After the game, coach Prime had these words. “South Carolina State kicked our butt. Every way, every fashion, they were more physical than us, more disciplined than us. We were overconfident and felt like they were just going to hand us the game. My hat’s off to everybody involved for South Carolina State especially their secondary. They’ve got a corner over there that should be recommended for the NFL, I am sure he is. He should get his shine on. We tried our best and got our butts kicked.”
Next up for Tigers is adding more talented recruits. Travis Hunter has made that a little easier. Coach Prime is ready. “We have already started the process with recruiting, with new facilities, with a plethora of things we are going to do. We have already started that process. I know I live in the moment because I want to maximize it and dominate it, but I am processing down the street. I am already thinking about spring, getting these kids quick, faster, stronger and disciplined. I am already thinking about that stuff. I have called coaches around the country to see what they do.”
Tiger Nation has every reason to be proud of their Jackson State Tigers. They are SWAC champions and Celebration Bowl runner ups and led by a freshman.
Exciting times are on the horizon for Jackson State.