Deion Sanders walked into the media room and told us that this would be the best press conference we had ever been a part of.
It certainly was one no one who was in the room will soon forget.
Sanders’ first words were not about his team’s dominant 53-0 win over Edward Waters. It was something none of us in the media room were expecting to hear.
“Thank you. God bless you. I’m pissed off right now.”
Brains began calculating what part of the blowout victory could have the Hall of Fame defensive back so agitated. Coach Prime doesn’t curse— hasn’t since the 1980s, he told the 1400 Club Podcast. He didn’t give us long to ponder.
“While the game was going on somebody came in and stole every durn thing I had in the locker room. From the coaches office. ” Sanders said solemnly. “Credit cards, wallet. Watches. Thank God I had on my necklaces.”
Eyebrows lifted. Mouths dropped. Twitter fingers went to tweeting.
It was a stark contrast to the scene on the field 10 minutes earlier as Sanders and JSU celebrated their win in front of a modest crowd at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“How do you think I feel, coming back after just being teary-ed because the guys had just given me the game ball, one of the moments I’ve had in my professional sports career emotionally,” he said. “And then you know you get to a locker in the coaches office to digress and then you notice you don’t even have a phone to call your mama, your girl, to call your kids— because it’s been stolen.”
Sanders emphatically pounded on the table and attempted to turn the focus back to the game.
“Let’s flush that — Jackson State, Thee I Love.”
Deion Sanders Doubles Down On Theft
You didn’t have to be Dan Rather to figure out that Sanders’ story about the theft of his items would be the headline of the day.
Within minutes the news spread all over mainstream and social media as and myself and Lut Williams of The Black College Sports Page gave our thoughts on camera to our Tolly Carr back in Atlanta. And while it wasn’t the main focus of the discussion, it was too big to ignore.
With the work done and a 10-hour drive ahead of us, I took a moment to snap a couple of selfies in my Cross Colours with the vulnerable Vet in the background. With fresh content for the ‘gram properly secured, I began to break down my equipment when word began to trickle down the steps of the ancient stadium that Coach Prime’s belongings had been found.
The word was a communication breakdown and that his property was safe the entire time. Having just tweeted out to the world that a theft occurred, I quickly attempted to update with the latest information, along with several other of my media comrades.
By this time the cat (Tiger) was out of the bag, and there was no putting it back in. ESPN. Bleacher Report. Sports Illustrated and pretty much every other mainstream publication that wouldn’t have given a thought to a game between these two black schools in a black city if one famous black man was not coaching on the sidelines.
That explanation made sense on my end. It had been a hectic week in the city as a rare winter storm, and preparations that were usually done days in advance had to be compressed into about 36 hours. And it was Coach Prime’s first game in a stadium that hadn’t hosted a football game since Nov. 2019. So I took to Twitter to expound on it and add context. Context on Twitter— that was my first misstep.
By the time I got halfway through my Swiss and Mushroom burger, I found out that Coach Prime was sure that his items were stolen and he wanted me and everyone else to be clear on it.
A few hours later, JSU put out an official statement from Ashley Robinson, the school’s VP and Director of Athletics.
“Immediately following our win today, several items belonging to Coach Prime were taken from the locker room. Those items were quickly recovered and returned. While we consider this an isolated incident, we are thoroughly reviewing security protocols to ensure this does not happen again,” Robinson wrote in his statement.
It was a strange end to a day that people had been eyeing since Deion Sanders was hired on Sept. 21, 2020.
The truth, they say, is often stranger than fiction.
With Jackson in my rear-view as I head back to North Carolina, I don’t know what the future holds for JSU this season. The win against Edward Waters was about what you would expect from a SWAC school given its history against them. Next week against Mississippi Valley will be an incrementally tougher test, and then things will go from there.
What I do know, is that with Deion Sanders at the helm, even a blowout win against an NAIA team is something that has the potential to go viral. So often since Sanders was hired, that has been a gift. On Sunday it turned into a curse for a while.
Exposure will not be a problem for Jackson State for the foreseeable future. Exposure not only highlights the good, but it also puts all the flaws on display. Coach Prime has promised transparency to the media, and JSU will have to answer the bell — and quickly — as the lights aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
This will be a season of learning for both Sanders and JSU as both parties figure out how to work together to make the opportunity before them work to its fullest potential.