The Shadow League’s Most Influential People Of 2020 — Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders

During this year of racial enlightenment, Black athletes were at the forefront of demanding changes in the system. One of the identifying gripes surrounded the lack of Black people in positions of power at universities. HBCU athletics has long been labeled as an inferior product to PWIs because the elite athletes in most communities of color usually take their talents elsewhere, rather than attend a Black college.

Deion Sanders

Leaders such as Deion Sanders have stepped up to lend their celebrity, credibility and branding skills to HBCUs. He’s taking the lead in not only changing the perception of HBCU sports but expanding the SWAC Conference’s marketability and economic reach.

Organizations, celebrities and corporations attempting to separate themselves from systemic racism have turned their attention to supporting HBCUs and helping to develop untapped Black talent, making this collection of schools a feasible destination for top athletes moving into the future.

Black To The Future

If you have the skills and talent, pro scouts will find you regardless of how brightly your institution shines among the pantheon of gold standard athletic universities. 

In fact, some of the greatest football players of all time played for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Walter Payton (Jackson State), Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Michael Strahan (Texas Southern) and Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) all forged their roads to Canton through these schools. 

READ MORE: Michael Strahan Gifts Alma Matter, Texas Southern, New Football Gear

While Five Star Recruit Makur Maker started the wave of prospects considering HBCUs when he committed to Howard for basketball, Pro Football Hall Of Famer, Sanders, has been cultivating an HBCU football renaissance of his own.

READ MORE: Makur Maker Steps Up To Pioneer A New Hoops Recruiting Culture For HBCUs

In March, Sanders handpicked 50 HBCU football players to compete in a two-day NFL Draft combine in Miami with all expenses paid. 

For years, young Black athletes have been conditioned to believe that the bigger the school the better in terms of exposure. As a result, HBCU athletes that have talent don’t get the recognition.  With this showcase, Sanders wanted to interrupt the pattern.

In September, Sanders leaned into his HBCU advocacy, even more, when he was named the 21st head football coach in Jackson State history. 

The impact of “Coach Prime” on the Tigers’ program was immediate. On December 17, Sanders and Jackson State had the biggest signing day ever by an HBCU. 

READ MORE: Deion Sanders Secures Top HBCU Recruiting Class In History

The Tigers signed Sanders’ son Shedeur — the highest-rated recruit (No. 60 in ESPN’s 300) to sign with an FCS school — and blue chip cornerback De’Jahn Warren, who decommitted from Georgia to sign with Jackson State.

Sanders also signed athletes who transferred from schools such as Missouri, Florida State, South Carolina and Southern California. 

For “Coach Prime” and the Tigers, the mission is clear.

“We’re going to change the game here,” Sanders told the Undefeated, “We expect to win. We expect to mature these guys, develop these guys and give them an opportunity to be a professional, on the field and off the field, but we’re going to win here (and) We’re going to turn a lot of heads.”

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