LaToya Williams is officially the newest member of the Jackson State football staff, but she’s no stranger to Jackson State, Deion Sanders, or the SWAC. Williams will serve as the director of football operations and special assistant to Sanders. Her position was recently updated to the school’s website but Williams has been working toward this position her entire life.
A native of Mississippi, LaToya Williams grew up on Jackson State football as a child. Both of her parents attended JSU along with her aunts and uncles on both sides of her family. Her earliest memories of Veterans Memorial Stadium are days when “The Vet” was jammed to capacity with 65,000 plus fans.
In a recent appearance on the “Tiger Talk with the 1400 Klub” podcast Williams talked about returning to the stadium. It would have been a routine trip for any other athletic staff member on a facility visit, but not for Williams.
“I could literally feel the energy from my childhood days in the stadium, and there was no one there,” she said.
The excitement of the past is now at an intersection with the future as Williams returns to Jackson.
“The glory of the old days, let’s just say it’s a dawn of a new day and new era. Coach Prime is not just in this moment but he’s of this movement.”
Started in the trenches
Williams’ career started in the trenches as a football team manager. A cheerleader in high school she always had a love for sports, especially football. In college, she devoted herself to the program at Alcorn State. From the practice field to the athletics office she was there chasing the dream. One day she discovered a big part of that dream in the AD’s office. Rather, in his trash can.
Williams found an application for an internship opportunity with the NCAA that had been thrown away. The athletic director thought that no one would be interested so he tossed it like a sales paper.
She literally pulled the application from the trash can and applied for the internship. Williams was flown out for an interview, it was the first time she had ever been on a plane. Despite her fears of the unknown, she aced the interview and secured the position.
“This is why I was washing clothes, fixing helmets, everything I could to be a part of sports. It was for that moment. It changed the course of my life.”
Meeting Deion Sanders
Williams continued her football experience after graduating and her internship. She picked up football operations experience while working with Reggie Barlow during his time as the Alabama State head coach.
In 2011 she was in Dallas, Texas working with her cousin Maurice and his basketball training facility. We all know Maurice better as Mo, as in Mo Williams. She’s first cousins with the former NBA player and current Alabama State head coach.
Williams was interested in getting a job at Prime Prep Academy, a charter school founded by Sanders. She sent Sanders a DM on social media but couldn’t find any traction. But Mo Williams was able to make the connection and an interview was set up.
Her experience with the NCAA and athletics departments was beneficial when she first met Deion Sanders. Sort of.
She began talking to Sanders and eagerly started running down her resume. Sanders broke up her spiel midsentence like a defensive back jumping on a curl route.
“I don’t care anything about your resume. Are you going to keep me out of the news and keep my guys eligible and get the school certified,” she recalls Sanders saying.
Prime Prep Academy was off to a rough start with getting students eligible. Williams was able to ease that burden for Sanders. While Prime Prep ultimately closed down because of financial and other issues, the relationship between Sanders and Williams was solidified.
“I am proud of the work we did at Prime Prep community. His heart for the kids and community was unmatched,” she said.
On to Jackson State
As a trusted confidant of Sanders she got the chance to see more than the football mind of one of the greatest NFL players of all time. She describes Sanders’ smile as genuine and a tool he uses to lift the energy of every room he walks into.
“He has helped me through some crazy times in life, everything that I came to work with, the baggage, it all disappeared. He makes me feel like in that moment, I am the most important person and the most important thing going on.”
Deion Sanders is the most important thing that has happened at Jackson State University in a long time. His international appeal has naturally lifted the profile of an already storied HBCU brand. But exposure doesn’t win ball games, and winning is the ultimate currency in the football ecosystem.
The Tigers are winning recruiting battles that HBCUs aren’t known for always securing. Jackson State has picked up a handful of high profile recruits already, including Sanders’ son, a four-star quarterback who had previously committed to Florida Atlantic.
“Right now we are still putting the puzzle together. When we get that final piece it’s going to be special.”
With Williams on board as Sanders’ right hand. A big part of the football staff puzzle is already complete.