The worst-kept secret in college football has been made official with the announcement Sept. 21 that Deion Sanders is the new head football coach at Jackson State. The HBCU school introduced the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back at a news conference on campus.
Deion Sanders will delay the start of work
Deion Sanders, 53, is the 21st head coach in the history of Jackson State, a Mississippi university that plays in the FCS. In vintage Neon Deion style, Sanders tipped off Barstool Sports podcast listeners regarding his new gig hours ahead of the official announcement.
Jackson State is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which placed fall sports on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. SWAC schools will attempt to squeeze in a limited football season after students return for the spring semester in January.
“We’re going to win,” Sanders said, according to USA Today. “We’re going to look good while we win. … And we’re going to win professionally.”
With the limitations on what he can accomplish on campus this fall, Sanders said he will continue for now in his role as offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian High in Cedar Hill, Texas.
He’ll be replacing John Hendrick, who was 6-9 at Jackson State, which hasn’t produced a winning season since 2013.
This is new territory for ex-NFL great Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders has never coached above the high school level. However, the former Florida State and professional athlete certainly has expertise in the world of sports.
While still enrolled at Florida State, Sanders spent summers playing baseball in the New York Yankees organization. He began in the rookie leagues in 1988 and progressed up the chain to the majors the following season, appearing in 14 games for the Yankees.
Reporting to the Atlanta Falcons that fall to begin his NFL career made Sanders an official pro two-sporter, and he stayed in MLB for more than half his football career, eventually playing for the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants. His MLB career totaled 641 games with a .263 batting average, 39 home runs, and 186 stolen bases.
Sanders played 14 seasons as a defensive back and kick-return specialist in the NFL after the Falcons made him the No. 5 overall draft pick. He would later play for the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens.
Sanders intercepted 30 passes in his first six seasons and 53 overall. Nine of them went into the books as pick-sixes to go along with six punt returns and three kickoff returns for touchdowns. He was also used from time to time at wide receiver, where he made 60 catches.
Sanders earned first-team All-Pro status six times from 1992-98 and landed eight Pro Bowl invitations. He also played on Super Bowl-winning teams for the 49ers and Cowboys and earned the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. His biggest NFL honor came in 2011 with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The new coach must recruit or else his career will be brief
Deion Sanders has been around football long enough to know what it takes in the way of assembling a coaching staff, planning practices, and putting game strategies together. The daily work during the season is a grind, but that should hardly worry a guy who held down full-time jobs in the NFL and Major League Baseball for as many years as he did.
However, the real challenge for Sanders will come in recruiting, which – cliches aside – really is the lifeblood of a college football program. Sanders has an engaging personality that will help him win over mom and dad in the living room during recruiting visits. But will he be able to win the confidence of players who are too young to remember his exploits on the field?
Challenge No. 1 in that regard will be an interesting one for Sanders. According to Outkick, one of the star players at the Texas high school where he is an assistant coach just happens to be his son. Sheduer Sanders, the Trinity Christian quarterback, is a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
Sheduer Sanders threw for 3,477 yards, 47 touchdowns, and four interceptions as a junior last fall. He understandably attracted college interest because of his performance and bloodlines, and the teen has already picked his college destination: Florida Atlantic University, coached by Willie Taggart.
So, the question is simple: Can Deion Sanders flip his son’s commitment. Taggart has incumbent QB Chris Robinson aboard for two seasons and then might want to turn the offense over to Willie Taggart Jr., a freshman.
That doesn’t sound very promising for Shedeur Sanders. So, shouldn’t dad be working on him to sign with Jackson State instead? And, what kind of indication would it be for his ability as a recruiter if Deion Sanders loses that fight?