When you talk impact, the name Deion Sanders should ring synonymously after his efforts in the HBCU world.
Since Sanders signed on to lead the Jackson State Tigers in September 2020 he’s done nothing but make a difference.
This week, Sanders and two of his players, quarterback Shedeur Sanders and cornerback/wide receiver Travis Hunter, became the first HBCU athletes to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated since Steve McNair did it with Alcorn State in 1994.
The cover is titled, “How Deion Sanders Rebuilt Jackson State — And Why An HBCU Revival Is Next On His List.”
“SO CLEAN WE’RE DIRTY! This is a monumental moment FOR ALL OF US AT HBCUs. (Jackson State) is on the cover but let’s not forget this is about ALL OF US.”
Sanders asked his two star players, “Why y’all trying to look mean? Y’all ain’t smiling?”
Sanders was quick to let the players know how big of a game-changer this was, and something he was never lucky enough to do during his time at Florida State.
In a YouTube video, Sanders said:
“You guys in college, man, got a darn cover. Something I never did, even when all the history I showed you. This is a blessing.”
Travis Hunter the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, who flipped from Sanders’ alma mater Florida State, said, “This is a billboard. This is history.”
Sanders flipped another receiver last weekend via the transfer portal when former four-star recruit Rico Powers announced he is transferring to Jackson State after two seasons playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Sanders Is No Stranger To SI Covers, But This Is Different
As arguably the greatest cornerback to play the game, making the cover of magazines was pretty routine for Sanders during his Hall of Fame career. This makes the sixth time Coach Prime has graced the cover and his first since 1997.
But for this to happen for Jackson State, showing that HBCUs have a voice, is groundbreaking.
Prior to Sanders’ arrival in the HBCU realm, stuff like this just wasn’t happening.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg as it pertains to positive outcomes for HBCUs over the last 21 months.
Sanders was adamant that his relationships with sponsors would benefit all HBCUs, and it has since day one. Pepsi, Gillette and others have lent a helping hand to the HBCU world over the last two years.
That’s a direct result of the great relationship Sanders has had with both over the past 25 to 30 years.
Exposure And Visibility Have Seen A Major Spike:
Exposure and visibility have also seen a jump. After not having any players selected in the 2021 NFL draft and just one in 2020, four were taken in the 2022 draft, and numerous others signed undrafted free agent and minicamp deals.
In December, Sanders discussed how exposure and visibility can help magnify a program.
“Exposure can magnify a program, it can multiply. It could put it in the position that it can attract other sponsors that can possibly help propel them to the next level. That’s what exposure does. A lot of the guys have NFL ability, they just need the recognition and they just need to be seen. These kids deserve a chance, man. What we did this year was unbelievable. We’ve just got to keep doing it in a consistent basis.”
Sanders Lands Another Former Four Star Recruit Via Transfer Portal:
The transfer portal has been good to Coach Prime during his tenure at JSU. In 2021, he was able to get 2022 Detroit Lions fifth-round draft pick James “The Problem” Houston, who terrorized SWAC offenses with 16.5 sacks. He also added wide receiver Malachi Wideman from Tennessee, who led the team with 12 touchdown receptions in 2021.
This cycle has been no different as Sanders landed some quality transfers, topped off by former four-star wideout Rico Powers from South Carolina. Powers played with Sanders’ son defensive back Shilo a 2021 transfer, and another transfer in this cycle Keveon Mullins, a tight end who’s expected to provide some quality play at the position.
For Powers, this is a fresh start for a guy who couldn’t seemed to get on track in Columbia. Powers chose the Gamecocks over offers from 17 other schools including Auburn, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Georgia, Kentuck and Maryland to name a few.
He joins an extremely talented and crowded receiver room that will feature the aforementioned Wideman. Also two 2022 top-50 recruits in Travis Hunter (No.1 recruit) in the nation and Kevin Coleman (No.44 recruit. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders won’t have any shortage of weaponry in the Tigers new “Air Raid,” attack under first-year offensive coordinator Brett Bartolone. SWAC defenses are about to be stressed the entire length and width of the football field.
JSU is officially big time. The cover of the most iconic sports magazine in history says it all.