When Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and former All-Pro running back Eddie George took jobs at HBCUs, they did so with a purpose and vision to help uplift the entire HBCU culture beyond just the football programs.
Those are two guys who need no introduction, so unlike many past HBCU coaches, they didn’t need these jobs as steppingstones. They arrived at two once legendary programs, Jackson State and Tennessee State, with a mind to make a change while bringing exposure, visibility and revenue to Black College Football.
And why not? With 34 NFL Hall of Famers representing 17 HBCU institutions, there’s plenty of proof that HBCUs have put out some top-tier talent. Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion Jerry Rice is one of those distinguished HBCU players who went on to become legendary at the NFL level.
Rice’s name has been thrown around as a possible head coach for an HBCU, maybe even his alma mater Mississippi Valley State. The GOAT receiver has taken notice of the work Coach Prime and Coach George have put in. In typical classy Jerry fashion, he’s giving his fellow Hall of Famers their flowers.
In a recent interview with “Locked On Texans,” Rice elaborated on what he’s seen them accomplish and how it enhances the legacy of HBCU football that he helped establish.
“It has a lot to do with Deion Sanders and Eddie George to go and give back while setting a standard at these schools. It started with Walter Payton. When I came into the league, I felt I had to carry that responsibility.
“If I was successful, other prospects were going to have the opportunity to have scouts come to their schools saying, ‘Jerry Rice is being successful in the NFL, so we have to go look at some of these other players from different schools.’”
HBCU Pro Days Saw More Turnout Than Ever Before
Behind a strong push from Sanders and other HBCU coaches, pro days weren’t spent running drills in front of five to seven NFL teams. Or having to travel to the nearby Power Five university to perform. Instead, the turnout was great, as Jackson State had 22 NFL teams show up for their day, which also included fellow SWAC rivals Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State. The turnout was historic, but Sanders took the time to call out the 10 teams that didn’t send reps.
An All-Mississippi Pro Day “Down On The Delta”
At Tennessee State’s pro day as many as 17 different NFL teams sent representatives. Coach Eddie George was elated for the turnout.
— Tennessee State Football (@TSUTigersFB) March 28, 2022
Jerry Rice Considered Coaching: Consulted Deion As Did Eddie George
Rice is quick to say he had no desire to stalk the sidelines until Sanders arrived at Jackson State. While many believe Rice would be a welcome asset, he still hasn’t decided if he wants to go that route.
In a January interview with hbcusi.com, the “GOAT” wide receiver had this to say:
“Not until Deion Sanders with Jackson State. Because I felt like I played the game for such a long time. And I was so totally committed. And I just poured everything into my career, that I didn’t have anything left. Because, as a coach, you really don’t have a life. I mean, coaching, it is hard man, it takes up the majority of your time. But yeah, it takes a total commitment. And you got to be all in. So it started to cross my mind just a little bit now.”
Eddie George credits Sanders for guidance as he contemplated taking the TSU job.
“I talked to Deion a lot. In talking to Deion, the process of me trying to figure out whether I was going to do this or not, and we talked maybe once a week just to see how he’s doing. I know he had some issues, and I told him I was praying for him, but more importantly, he’s telling me the best practices and things he’s done to be successful.
“And the bottom line is this, off the field our goal is to raise the profile, raise the standards of HBCUs, and say, ‘Hey, you know what, you don’t have to go to a Power Five school to get your end goal. You can come to an HBCU, you can come to a different school and be all that you want to be and be very successful.’”
With the aforementioned Sanders and George making huge strides for HBCUs, and the likes of Bubba McDowell at Prairie View and Hue Jackson at Grambling, things are looking up for Black college football. It’s vital to continue to capitalize on the newfound momentum.