Deion Sanders Awakens the Sleeping Giant of HBCU Football


On December 15, 2021, Deion Sanders and Jackson State University (JSU) shocked the college football world by flipping the #1 recruit in 2022, defensive back Travis Hunter, from his commitment to Florida State.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities have a rich history in football. I want to be part of that history, and more, I want to be part of that future,” wrote Hunter.

While this shocked most of the sports world, Sanders and JSU have been building to this moment. 

Football Scoop described Jackson State’s 2021 recruiting class as “the best in FCS history, post-integration.” The Hall of Famer’s success on the recruiting trail has also born fruit on the field. The JSU Tigers are 11-1 and will play for a Black College Football National Title in the Celebration Bowl on Saturday.

Sanders was awarded the “Eddie Robinson Award” for FCS Coach of the Year, leaving little doubt of Sanders’ impact and influence on the overall college football landscape.

Sanders’ rapid accent in the coaching world means he has a chance to join the legacy of great HBCU coaches, including Cleveland Abbott (Tuskegee), Jake Gaither (FAMU), Eddie Robinson (Grambling), Arnett Mumford (Southern), Eddie Hurt (Morgan State), Billy Nicks (Prairie View), and many others.

Among these giants, Sanders’ style is reminiscent of College Football Hall of Famer John Merritt.

For more than three decades, Merritt led Jackson State (1952-1962) to national prominence and Tennessee State (1963-1983) to seven HBCU national titles. Flamboyant in an era where Black coaches chose a stoic demeanor and character building, Merritt showed up to recruit’s homes with sunglasses, a Cadillac, and a cigar. He believed in the entertainment value of HBCU football, what he called “The Show.”

With his “Prime Time” alter ego, Sanders has always understood the importance of entertainment.

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