When you’re Deion Sanders, a multiple Super Bowl champion and arguably the greatest cover cornerback the NFL has ever seen, you tend to make a lot of friends along that journey.
Sanders was also an MLB player, becoming the only athlete to play in an NFL game and World Series in the same day. One of those friends Sanders gained along the way is former teammate Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. The tandem helped lead the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl XXX win over the Buffalo Bills.
Smith knows a lot more about Sanders than most people and he recently mentioned that he’s not at all surprised about the success Sanders has had as head football coach at Jackson State University. The success on the gridiron includes the Tigers winning their first SWAC title since 2007, posting the school’s first 11-win season. Those triumphs led to a berth in the Celebration Bowl (Black CFB National Championship). That boosted Jackson State’s visibility and exposure, helping the Tigers on the recruiting trail.
Congrats are in order for my brother and friend, @DeionSanders! You’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’m proud to see the work pay off. If you need a RB coach with some NFL experience… I know a guy! 😎 pic.twitter.com/vjQo0Cedvd
— Emmitt Smith (@EmmittSmith22) September 25, 2020
In a recent interview with SI and HBCU Legends, Smith elaborated on his friend and former teammate.
“He has been grooming himself and raising young kids to play the sport at the highest level. So, no, I’m not surprised. Deion brings something different to an organization like Jackson State and these young men that some coaches cannot even identify with because Nick Saban never played professional football, not at this level. None have played baseball and been a dual-sports guy like Deion.”
Smith’s son was part of Sanders’ youth organization “The Truth.” Sanders then went on to start Prime Prep Academy in 2012. PPA was a group of charter schools located in Dallas/Fort Worth and Oak Cliff that ran until 2015.
Deion Sanders' former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Emmitt Smith, is 'not surprised' by Coach Prime's rapid rise in HBCU Football!@KTMOZE reporting for @HBCULegends on @SINow 's @FanNation.https://t.co/eyR2LjV9NK
— HBCU Legends (@hbculegends) June 14, 2022
Sanders Told Us He Was Going To Be D-I Coach
A devout Christian, Sanders has the utmost belief in a higher being. So much that in January 2020 during an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Sanders told Patrick, “Yes. I’m gonna be a head coach in college football next year.”
Patrick asked where and Sanders responded, “Somewhere.”
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
Sanders seemingly prophesied his future in September 2020; as the world fought the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jackson State Tigers came calling. With the SWAC fall season pushed back until the spring Sanders took the gig and as they say in Hollywood, the “rest is history.”
Midway through his second season, he became a desired head coach. Sanders’ name had been mentioned as a possible replacement at Florida State, his alma mater, following the firing of Willie Simmons. He’s also been pursued by TCU, and there were rumors that the Dallas Cowboys were sniffing around Sanders last season. At the very least, Sanders was more than one prominent voice’s choice to lead the Cowboys, which is an example of his popularity.
Sanders Makes Presence Felt Immediately
In his interview, Smith talked about Sanders’ ability to connect with the Black athlete on a cultural level. That was never more obvious than when Sanders out-recruited multiple Power Five schools to snag the nation’s No.1 overall recruit in dual-threat Travis Hunter. The move sent shockwaves throughout college football, while upsetting some major Power Five coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban.
Saban, whom Sanders looked up to as a guy who he hopes to model his program after, went full narcissist mode in an interview last month.
“Jackson State paid a guy $1 million last year who was a really good Division I player to come to their school.”
Sanders admitted the accusations stung and he didn’t let Saban get away with it. Coach Prime demanded an apology as loud as the disrespect.
Sanders is doing wonders in Jackson, Mississippi. Leading into his third season and second full fall season, the belief is the JSU Tigers are just beginning their run of elevated success.