Jackson State head football coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is doing all he can to help HBCU football players realize their dream of playing professional football.
On Monday, Coach Prime hosted a joint pro day with other Mississippi HBCU schools including SWAC foes Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State. The event was put together to get student-athletes in front of as many pro eyes as possible.
The trigger for the event came in 2021, when, egregiously, no HBCU players were drafted by NFL teams. And overall, the exposure and visibility HBCUs receive is pretty embarrassing. Before Sanders arrived, and ESPN, Bar Stool and other media outlets hopped on the HBCU train, it was even worse.
Sanders talked to prospects and even used his catchphrase from his time on the NFL Network.
“You ball, you get the call,” Sanders said. “I’m … expecting a few of y’all to get the call. There’s no way we’re going another year without a player from HBCU getting drafted. That’s a lie.”
In all, 36 student-athletes participated in a variety of combine and pro day-type drills, in front of 22 NFL scouts.
“We’re just trying to get the best kids regardless of where they come from. This is unbelievable. I’m sitting here watching with Coach Dancy to my right, Coach McNair an HBCU coaching legend, and a plethora of other HBCU coaches. This is a beautiful thing.”
NFL scouts attending Jackson State Pro Day @JacksonStateU @DeionSanders #NFLDraft
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 21, 2022
Sanders Was Happy With The Turnout But Wants More
While 22 scouts from different NFL teams showed up, Sanders was quick to call out the 10 who didn’t. He sent them a warning about attending the Power Five pro days.
“It should be bigger. Trust me that I’m going to reach out to the ones that aren’t here. And I promise you that but I’m happy. I’m thankful. I’m elated. But I’m not satisfied because if you’re going to have 32 tomorrow or something at Mississippi State or the next day at Ole Miss, we need the same out for it. But we’re going to get better and better and command more scouts to go watch out kids participate.”
Sanders wasn’t done calling out the 10 NFL teams who didn’t show up.
“Ten of them are missing,” Deion lamented. “Don’t think I’m not going to call you. You 10 that’s missing if I catch you in Mississippi State or Ole Miss, it’ll be a problem, that’s all I’m going to say. All I’m saying is, it’s going to be a problem. Our kids are that good, you should have shown up, too.”
Although Sanders wanted all 32 teams to send representatives, having 22 show up to an HBCU for pro day is an amazing feat.
It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and considering HBCU pro days of the past attracted just five to seven scouts on the average in the past, Monday was a success.
That’s if the school even had a pro day, as most would attend the pro day of the nearest Power Five program to be seen by pro scouts. Sanders has used his platform and connections to move HBCU football into realms they only dreamed of prior to his arrival at Jackson State in 2020.
Sanders Says No Way HBCUs Won’t Have Players Drafted In 2022
The sticking point for Sanders since his arrival has been getting players drafted. After no HBCU player was drafted in 2021, he vowed that would never happen again.
“That’s not going to happen,” Sanders told the Clarion Ledger newspaper this week. “It’ll never happen again. I know during the pandemic year we had an excuse, but that’s never going to happen again. My desire is 7, 10 players this year. Then we’re going to try to double that.”
While JSU linebacker James Houston, wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine he posted some great numbers on Monday.
Houston showed a “4.6-second 40-yard dash, a 39-inch vertical jump and 10.6-foot broad jump,” according to reports. The elite pass rusher tallied 16.5 sacks in his one season under Sanders.
The NFL salivates for pass rushers of that caliber.
Houston raved about the work Deion has put into bringing exposure and visibility to HBCUs.
“That’s the Coach Prime effect, “ Houston said. “He’s going to get guys here and get looks.”