Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and the reigning SWAC football champion Jackson State Tigers made history on the final Sunday in April.
The Tigers became the first FCS and HBCU football program to have their annual spring football game televised. ESPNU did the honors and Coach Prime and his guys put on a show.
On a day when folks tuned in to see what Coach Prime has in store for the upcoming 2022 season, they were treated to some real talent all over the field. Explosive performances by coveted recruits and Coach Prime’s loud and animated commentary were legendary. His mic was hotter than fish grease. The array of talent seems almost unfair for JSU’s SWAC opposition.
Sanders tweeted about the event.
“Today was epic. First HBCU to EVER have a spring game on National Television @espn. Thank u for the opportunity to show the nation WE CAN! My dear friend @icecube said in a hit song, ‘Today was a Good Day.’ God is so Good.” #CoachPrime
While the Tigers did put on a show in many facets of the game, a few players really stood out.
Travis Hunter Stole The Show: He Did It On Both Sides Of The Ball
In December, Coach Prime and the JSU Tigers shook up the recruiting world when they flipped Travis Hunter, the nation’s No.1 overall recruit from Florida State. Hunter, a two-way cornerback and wide receiver, chose JSU in order to be coached by the greatest corner to ever play the game in Sanders. The ambitious baller also wanted the opportunity to play both ways.
Sanders convinced Travis Hunter, the No. 1 overall prospect in the recruiting rankings era, to flip the commitment switch from Florida State to Jackson State University. Sanders is now positioned as the HBCU athletics new school leader. https://t.co/Q6yc5W7TEq
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) December 22, 2021
If Sunday’s spring game was any indication, he’s up for the challenge of multi-tasking at an elite level. He’s just different. A talent you don’t usually find roaming SWAC gridirons. The speedy, savvy and fundamentally sound freshman had two explosive touchdown receptions in the first quarter alone.
The first was a “Randy Moss” 50-50 ball in the back corner of the endzone. Hunter flexed his leaping ability and hands, hauling the ball in over the outstretched arms of the defender, who actually had blanket coverage.
The second one was of the deep-ball variety. Hunter was able to show his breakaway sub 4.4 speed. Both touchdowns came from the arm of reigning SWAC Freshman of the Year and Jerry Rice Award winner Shedeur Sanders.
— Jeff Lightsy Jr. (@jlightsy7) April 24, 2022
Hunter also grabbed two high-flying interceptions, catching the ball at its highest point. His head coach loves how he plays.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) April 25, 2022
“That’s who he is,” said Sanders. “He does not wait for a game or spring game to be dominant. He’s like that at practice. He wants all the smoke, all of it.”
Shedeur Was Efficient And Accurate: O-Line Needs Improving
Even with all the success JSU experienced last season, the offensive line wasn’t that good. They didn’t consistently open up holes for the run game. Sanders called the O-Line deficiencies JSU’s “Achilles heel.” It was badly exploited in a Celebration Bowl loss to South Carolina State.
In an on-field interview with an ESPNU reporter, Sanders said, “We have to establish the run, that was our Achilles heel last season. We brought in a plethora of lineman this cycle.”
“If we can protect Shedeur, we’re gonna be very good.”
Kevin Coleman Shines
Four-star receiver Kevin Coleman – another top-50 recruit – was dynamic as well with a kick return touchdown and some real impressive catches from the slot.
Shedeur and both prized freshmen seem to have chemistry in first-year OC Brett Bartolone’s “Air Raid” scheme.
Sanders Knows ESPN Exposure Means Easier Recruiting: Four-Star Receiver Commits During Game
A 2023 four-star wide receiver, Robert Lockhart III committed during the game. Another impressive grab for Sanders and the rising JSU program, as well as an example of what exposure on ESPN can do for an HBCU program.
Sanders knows his recruiting success starts and ends with exposure
“I’m extremely thankful, I’m appreciative,” Sanders said. “I’m happy with the ESPN things, that’s wonderful for us to have that platform. It opens up tremendous doors. It shows you the culture, who we are.”