While pro sports is a discipline based on physical dominance, the mental aspects of the game — the psychological warfare involved in defeating your opponent — is often just as important when striving to create a culture of perennial success.
Deion Sanders is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, two-time Super Bowl champion and one-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He’s reached the pinnacle of the game of football in many areas, but his rise can’t totally be attributed to his God-given elite athletic ability. Deion also needed to find a psychological edge over his opponents to become the best NFL cover corner ever, stay motivated and challenged.
Coach Prime will be the first to tell you Mickey Andrews, his defensive coordinator at Florida State, preached that daily. That’s why Sanders doesn’t intervene when his current Jackson State players want to mix it up a bit.
Sanders has been allowing aggressive physical contact between his players all spring. It’s really an old NFL formula. First, we fight each other, and then we maul the competition. One of the better confrontations occurred just over a week ago. There was a video of two JSU lineman engaging in fisticuffs during the final week of spring practice.
Sanders and his entire coaching staff let the big guys mix it up a bit before finally intervening after a real tussle ensued.
In a video Sanders talked about how he lets players fight before eventually intervening:
“I’m a little different, man. Everybody wanna break it up real quick, get it out ya man. You’re not really fighting, you’re slapping each other in the helmet.”
After breaking it up, Sanders told the teammates to “shake it up” and line up for the next play to be run.
Classic NFL Fights
Sanders once fought teammate-turned-foe Andre Rison in an NFL game between the Niners and Falcons, after Sanders left Atlanta via free agency. It’s one of the more memorable, blow-for-blow battles between players.
— OurSF49ers (@OurSf49ers) May 29, 2020
Sanders Bringing In New Approaches To Coaching
Ever since he was hired as head coach of Jackson State, Sanders has continually done things using unconventional methods. From how he uses social media to his advantage to grab a recruit’s attention to how freely he runs his locker room to the way he embraces the pageantry of playing black college football with all the bells and whistles on a weekly basis.
Sanders has done it his way, and it’s paid great dividends. The Tigers enjoyed the first 11-win season in program history. They also won their first SWAC title in 14 seasons (since 2007). Sanders won the illustrious Eddie Robinson Award, given annually to the top coach in FCS football.
The Tigers also broke the single-season attendance record for FCS schools. The city of Jackson saw its football-related revenue increase from $16 million in 2019 to $32 million in 2021, and much of that increase can be attributed to Sanders and the way he’s helped elevate the stature of and visibility of HBCUs.
He flipped the nation’s top recruit (Travis Hunter) to Jackson State from Sanders’ alma mater Florida State. People were perplexed as to how Deion pulled it off. HBCUs landed sponsorships with big organizations like Pepsi. And this Sunday JSU will become the first FCS school to have it’s spring game nationally televised (ESPN2).
Hunter is a viable two-way threat who is known for his cornerback skills but is equally gifted with the ball in his hands. Having originally committed to a Power Five school, it was possible that Hunter would hit the campus with an attitude that he would be “Mr. Everything” for JSU.
Deion, however, told Hunter that he wants him to focus on being the best cornerback he can be and he’s limiting his touches on offense early in the season. Everyone knows Hunter has the skills to pay the bills, but Deion has a plan for the talented baller. He doesn’t want him getting too big for his britches too fast, and Hunter will have to earn his way onto the offense. It’s how Deion operates and keeps his best players hungry and mentally sharp.
Players Are Out To Prove Themselves
Many of the players at Jackson State are either players who weren’t highly recruited or overlooked by Power Five programs. With the new transfer portal rules many are transfers looking to make a name for themselves while hopefully giving themselves a path to the pros. With such desperation facing many of these guys, you’re likely to see them do whatever it takes to reach that level of success. Playing with a little extra edge is something Sanders encourages as he looks to dominate the SWAC and FCS football.
Here’s what he told his team after a recent spring practice:
“We’ve already won. And we’re gonna win. But let’s be dominant.”
Just another nugget for them to ruminate on.