When Deion Sanders officially announced that he would indeed become the next Jackson State football coach in September, there was an instinctive reflex to wonder whether it all was real.
Never in anyone’s wildest imaginations could the possibility exist that Sanders — the NFL Hall of Fame defensive back and effervescent network television personality — was seriously considering an HBCU to begin his head coaching career.
Through sheer observation, Sanders didn’t need this. He had the riches. He possessed the 100-acre ranch in Texas. He was one of the faces of Subway commercials.
Was this all genuine? Was this yearning to coach another avenue for Sanders to promote his brand?
The verdict after a month seems to be that Sanders — through his actions — not just his carefully crafted motivational Instagram soundbites is all in.
Hours after the introductory press conference, Sanders had made offers to a half-dozen recruits, some already with interest from Power 5 schools. He has either made appearances or been referenced by ESPN, Fox Sports, Forbes, Good Morning America, and Sports Illustrated.
Sanders, even before calling a play, has positioned himself as arguably the most valuable asset in the world of HBCU football since Eddie Robinson.
When asked recently on The Paul Finebaum Show whether this move to the sidelines at the collegiate level was genuine, Sanders emphatically affirmed as much.
“This is not a gimmick,” Sanders told Finebaum about his commitment to Jackson State. “This is real. This is genuine.”
Since he was hired, Sanders has repeatedly used the phrase “I believe” to signify an unwavering faith that Jackson State football will once again return to prominence.
The fanbase has certainly bought into that with season ticket sales risen and donations have surged to go along with the university netting an estimated $12 million in media exposure so far.
Sanders hopes, as does Jackson State, that the attention adds up to a new, more impactful era of HBCU football.
“With what we’re doing in the country— social injustices, so many things about trying to reach and strive for equality — this is the best possible scenario and situation I could ever find myself in,” Sanders told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a task to me — level the playing field.”