Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders vs. Eddie George| Southern Heritage Classic & HBCU Football’s Brand Elevation

Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders and Tennessee State coach Eddie George clashed in the Southern Heritage Classic with a common goal to improve conditions, opportunities for Black student athletes. (Photo: @hbcugameday/FB)

Deion Sanders and Eddie George share a friendship that extends back to their days as NFL players helping to shape the football culture of the ’90s. Each was among the best to ever do it at his respective position. George was a workhorse running back for the Oilers/Titans.

He holds franchise records for career rushing yards (10,009), yards from scrimmage (12,153), touchdowns (74), attempts (2,733), and seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing (1996-2003).

Sanders is a two-time Super Bowl champion, eight-time All-Pro selection, and considered the elite cover cornerback in NFL history.

When George was offered the opportunity to help build an HBCU program from the ground up he called his boy Prime for a powwow.

Deion says he passed on some of the early lessons he learned in his first season at Jackson State. Now the NFL legends are once again rivals on the field but also allies in the same cause: improving conditions and opportunities for Black student-athletes and the HBCU institutions they populate.

”Coach Prime” is in his second season as the head coach of Jackson State.

READ MORE: Pepsi Deal Shows Coach Prime’s Influence On Black College Football’s Way Bigger Than Wins & Losses

Coach George is in his first as head honcho at Tennessee State.

The football lifers faced off on Saturday night in the Southern Heritage Classic, where Jackson State defeated Tennessee State 38-16 behind the sharp passing of Tigers quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who is Deion’s son.

Return Of The Southern Heritage Classic

The outcome of the game was really unimportant to the fans in attendance who packed the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The annual classic returned after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The marching bands, buses, tents, RVs, big TVs, and meat smokers packed parking lots closest to the stadium. The pageantry, fanfare, and sense of community and culture was back.

 

Any HBCU graduate remembers moments like these. The after parties and showcases were just as much a part of the event as the game.

This year’s Southern Heritage Classic had a big-time feel because of the two guys on the sidelines and their legendary status, captivating personalities, and commitment to HBCU football. Think Tiger Stadium at night for LSU home games or “The Grove” down at Ole Miss, or Bryant-Denny Stadium for a pivotal Alabama home game.

New Faces Of HBCU Football

Sanders and George are the faces of the universities they have adopted, as well as of the HBCU movement at large. Their celebrity is helping to make these institutions more nationally relevant.

So while they share a common mission to bring relevancy and notoriety to HBCU/Black College Football, Sanders and George have gone about accomplishing things in a significantly different manner.

Coach Prime: Bull In A China Shop

With Coach Prime it’s always showtime. He’s a walking punchline dripping in swag. It’s very similar to his playing days at Florida State and the NFL, where he shut down receivers on a daily while letting everyone know about it. Humility was never a part of Deion’s deep bag of talents.

Eddie George: Silent Assassin

Coach George is much more methodical in his approach, sort of like his running style back in the days. The most brand-enhancing move he’s probably ever made was marrying Taj from the legendary R&B group SWV.  George was a bruising running back who punished defenders relentlessly while being quiet as a church mouse.

The talent disparity at the two HBCUs is indicative of the game’s final score. Sanders had a head start on George in terms of impact, branding, recruiting, and cornering the HBCU football market. Deion’s recruiting class is considered one of the best in HBCU history.

Sanders’ son Shedeur, a 2021 four-star recruit and the highest-ranked player ever to sign to Jackson State, is an example of the upgraded recruits JSU is reeling in.

His dad unleashed him following a conservative Week 1 where the JSU offense mustered just one TD. Shedeur went 30 of 40 for 333 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Sanders was the best player on the field. Tennessee State doesn’t have four-star athletes of that caliber yet.

These schools may never get a five-star recruit to turn his-back on Alabama or Miami and join a Black College Football powerhouse, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have five-star talent in the building. Both Deion Sanders and Eddie George are the blue chip coaching hires that the HBCU community needed.