When Hall of Famer Deion Sanders accepted the position at Jackson State University it made ahead wave of the things to come for HBCU football and HBCU athletics in general. Sanders wanted to elevate these schools and push the status quo when it comes to HBCUs having their name mentioned in the conversation when we talk about college football as a whole. “ Playing on ESPN2 and not ESPN. Not invited to bowl games when some teams are 6-5 and really not worthy. I want to know why that is not on the table for HBCUs’ ‘ said Sanders a year ago at his inaugural press conference.
Sanders definitely has definitely been on a mission to change the status quo with HBCU football. Even though the Tigers took a hard-fought loss in the Celebration Bowl to South Carolina State doesn’t mean their season did not have major accomplishments. This season he took the Tigers to 11-1 and took them to the Celebration Bowl, For post-season awards He also won SWAC coach of the year and his son Shedur Sanders became the first HBCU player to win the Jerry Rice Award for top freshman in FCS football. In only a year of coaching, Sanders has definitely set the bar for not only the program but the respect for HBCU football.
With having a great season as the Tigers head coach, Sanders was not done yet. Before the Celebration bowl game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta GA the #1 prospect in the country Travis Hunter flipped his commitment from Florida State to Jackson State University at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee GA. This completely shocked all of the sports world. There were rumors of the six-foot-one corner de-committing to go play at the University of Georgia but picking Jackson State blindsided everyone.
This is one of the biggest prospect flips in college football history. After his commitment this is what he had to say: “ I am making this decision so that I can light the way for others to follow, make it a little easier for the next player to recognize that HBCUs maybe everything you want and more; an exciting college experience, a vital community and a life-changing place to play football”.
Travis Hunter is ultimately the first recruit in this new generation of prospects to pick an HBCU over a power five school. The resurgence of HBCU athletics has been bubbling for a minute. A lot of high school athletes are doing their due diligence in helping revive HBCU athletics to get it back to where it was years ago.
There is somewhat still a running thought process for recruits that they won’t be seen or noticed by NFL scouts if they got to an HBCU due to the lack of television time and publicity. “ If you’re good enough they will find you, ” said Deion Sanders. This has been proven true for some former athletes that have attended historically black colleges. HBCUs have a great stretch of history of players going to the NFL and having great careers, Shannon Sharpe went to Savannah State, Micheal Strahan went to Texas State University, Walter Payton went Jackson State, and that’s just a few of many notable NFL players and Hall of Famers that attended HBCUs.
Deion did say that he had something special happening at Jackson State and this is just the beginning. Travis Hunter’s commitment to Jackson State is a big step in the right direction for HBCU football. This could be a tipping point to have more high-ranking prospects consider going to HBCUs in the coming future, which can elevate these schools, give them funding and get HBCUs back to where they were years ago.