On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the 2021 Jackson State Tigers football team were honored on the steps of the Mississippi State Capitol. The Tigers went 11-2, winning the SWAC for the first time 2007, and advancing to the program’s first-ever Celebration Bowl. JSU head coach Deion Sanders was named the Eddie Robinson Award winner, which given to the top coach in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). JSU was the most decorated and celebrated HBCU football program in the country.
— Jackson State U. (@JacksonStateU) February 2, 2022
But all wasn’t perfect down in Jackson, as a health scare nearly cost Sanders his life. Following surgery for a dislocated toe, Sanders dealt with complications that caused an extended hospital stay where leg amputation was a real possibility. Sanders missed three games from those complications, but on Tuesday he was walking under his own power with a slight limp as his team was honored for their historic season.
Jackson State Head Coach Deion Sanders takes the podium ahead of the 2021 Celebration Bowl pic.twitter.com/dSnzeK9POJ
— Stan Becton (@stan_becton) December 17, 2021
Sanders thanked the crowd and dignitaries for their support …
“Jackson Mississippi, we love you, we appreciate you. We’ve gone through tough times during the course of my being here, but we’ve overcome all adversity and we’re winning.”
Seeing Sanders moving around without a scooter or wheelchair was surreal, as he’s been unable to walk unassisted since he had the first procedure in late September. Whereas most football coaches would appear weakened by being unable to use their legs, the scooter/bike Coach Prime used at the Celebration Bowl was typical Deion, dripping in swag.
— Ralph Wiggum (@RalphWStats) December 18, 2021
As The Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band played legendary R&B classics like “Get Ready” by The Temptations and “Cameo” by Cameo, players snapped flicks with the coveted SWAC championship trophy. It was a well-earned celebration but something Sanders said would come to fruition. It was a culmination of what they’d accomplished in such a short time and there’s so much more for them to do.
Sanders’ Arrival at Jackson State Increased Exposure, Visibility and Revenue:
Since Sanders arrived in September 2020, his presence alone has done wonders for exposure and visibility in HBCU football. Football-related revenue increased from $16 million in Jackson in 2019 to $30 million in 2021. The Tigers are a huge attraction at home or on the road. If you want even more impact, look at 46,000 who packed the Liberty Bowl for the Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State and Tennessee State, one year after it was canceled due to COVID-19
An estimated 75,000-80,000 folks were in or around the festivities that weekend. Then the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta where Sanders began his NFL career, was a sellout as the Tigers battled the MEAC champion South Carolina State Bulldogs in the de facto Black college football national championship.
What a way to kickoff #BowlWeek here in Atlanta, we are officially sold out! We’re looking forward to seeing @MEACSports @theswac and ALL HBCU fans in @MBStadium and the @CocaCola fan experience! #AChampionWillRise pic.twitter.com/KgQZqIRuQC
— Cricket Celebration Bowl (@CelebrationBowl) December 13, 2021
Sanders joked that he’s planning a gala and the city is gonna cover the tab because JSU has already brought so much revenue to the city.
“We’re going to do something for you because I want to feel you, I want to touch you, i want to get dressed up. We’re going to have a Red, Blue and White Gala for the city. Our mayor is here. We ain’t paying for it, I’m letting you know that right now. We’re going to be eating free because we made a lot of money for the city. So I can’t wait to rub elbows with you.”
None of these festivities would’ve been possible if school athletics director Ashley Robinson didn’t step outside the proverbial box with the Coach Prime hire. For his efforts, he recently received a contract extension. Robinson is a Jackson native who’s seen the city at its worst. Now he can stick his chest out a bit and speak things like “Jackson Strong.”
Today we locked in the talented @JacksonStateAD through 2026. We are ecstatic to have him continue to lead the @JacksonStateU Division of Athletics! His commitment and service to the university and our student-athletes are invaluable. pic.twitter.com/foD0KiNiPq
— Thomas Hudson, J.D. (@JSUPrez) February 15, 2022
“There is no strong Jackson, Mississippi, without a strong Jackson State University. A strong Jackson State means a strong city of Jackson, and I’m not just talking; I grew up in it,” Robinson said Tuesday.
Shedeur Sanders Not Satisfied With What JSU Accomplished Last Season:
Shedeur Sanders was the catalyst, the straw that stirred the drink for the Tigers as an extension of his dad/coach on the field. And never was that more evident than when Coach Prime was hospitalized for those three games. Shedeur battled through his personal fear for his dad’s health and performed at a high level in his absence. Shedeur was named SWAC Freshman of the Year, and the Jerry Rice Award given annually to the most outstanding freshman in FCS.
“You’ve got to strive for more. Right now, we’re just in the weight room, lifting every day and just training, getting our mind right for next season,” said Shedeur.
If Coach Prime has anything to do with it, this is just the beginning of February celebrations on the Mississippi State Capitol steps.
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