‘It Felt Like A Piece Was Missing’| Shedeur Sanders Recounts Emotional Roller Coaster When His Dad Deion Sanders Was Hospitalized

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

The 2021 Jackson State Tigers football program reached unforeseen heights this season. Under the direction of Deion Sanders and freshman QB Shedeur Sanders, the youngest of Sanders’ sons, the Tigers had their first 11-win season in program history. 

They also won the SWAC for the first time since 2007. That catapulted them into their first Celebration Bowl (de facto Black College National Championship). Shedeur was named SWAC Freshman of the Year and also won the Jerry Rice Award given to the top Football Championship Subdivision freshman. Deion also took home some individual accolades, winning the Eddie Robinson Award given to the top coach in FCS.

 

 

Things were going great on the field, but all wasn’t perfect on the home front, especially when Coach Prime missed time after complications from foot/toe surgery.

Sanders missed wins versus Alabama State, Mississippi Valley State and Texas Southern, as he battled for his life. Shedeur kept the team afloat, but says he missed his dad, coach and mentor.

 

Sanders’ And Shedeur Took Pregame Walks: It’s Something He Missed With Dad Away

Since their days together at Trinity Christian, where Deion was the offensive coordinator, the two had a routine where they’d take pregame walks and talk. Shedeur continued the walks without his dad, but says it wasn’t the same. Those walks were vital to Shedeur’s emotional development, motivation and relationship with his father away from the pressures and intensity of the gridiron. 

In an interview with Kyle Mosley of HBCU Legends, Shedeur said: 

“First and foremost, whenever we walk before the game. I still did the routine [during Deion Sanders’s hospitalization]. I’d still walk, still talk to myself, and ask myself the same questions he would ask me.”
He added, “So during the game, it felt different. It felt like a piece was missing. Which it was, but Coach Gary “Flea” Harrell was there, and really stepped up, and really knew what I needed. So he was there to guide me. Honestly, when we’re in between the lines, it’s no dad. It’s Coach Prime. I didn’t miss the yelling part, definitely. Yeah, he would’ve yelled a little bit more during the season. So, that took a little weight off my shoulders. But I missed him. Just being there on the sidelines, and just spending a moment, spending that time with him. So whenever he came back, I remember at the Southern game? I replied, “Yeah.” He continued, “Throwing the touchdown to win the game.” And that’s just the moment. So we share it.”

That week while visiting his dad, Shedeur told him … “Dad I need you back, I need you back on the sidelines.”

Sanders Talked About Coaching His Sons Prior To The Season

Sanders coaches both of his sons, the aforementioned Shedeur and his other son, Shilo, a starting defensive back. Over the summer, Sanders talked about the difference in dad and coach. 

Coach Prime addressed that dynamic in an interview with CBS Sports. 

“They remind me that I’m still dad. Although I try to negate that because there’s no daddy ball here, there’s no favoritism here, but they let me know I’m still dad.”

The entire Jackson State football team missed Deion while he was out. He’s a “leader of young men” and a mentor to all who play for him. Their play didn’t suffer during his absence as the team went (3-0). But no one missed him more or felt his absence like his sons, because he’s more than a coach or mentor to them. He’s DAD!


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