If there’s one thing Deion Sanders knows besides football, it’s how to get noticed. And three games into his coaching career, “Coach Prime” has his JSU squad in the spotlight.
Two Jackson State games were moved up to ESPN2 last week — Sunday’s blowout win over Mississippi Valley State, and this week’s contest at Alabama State.
Sanders said that he wants to see more of that.
“We shouldn’t be on no dern ESPN14 and we’re happy about it. We should be on ESPN 2 or ESPN. I guarantee the numbers are gonna constitute that whatever you had on the week prior, we outdid those dern numbers. Give us our shine. Allow us — our kids — to get their exposure.”
Alabama State started the season being streamed on ESPN3. Head coach Donald Hill-Ely talked about what the exposure of the bigger platform will mean for his program.
“To be able to play on a national platform gives us a chance to gain a lot of recruits that are out there. But more importantly, give our fans that are abroad because of the pandemic, a chance to see us across the country. It’s just a great opportunity from what has taken place in HBCU football — especially the SWAC— playing week-in and week-out on national television.”
Deion Sanders admits JSU is the hunted
Jackson State has landed in the STATS FCS Top 25 after its 3-0 start to the 2021 spring football season. It is ranked 24th overall, just ahead of Murray State. The ranking comes one day after it throttled Mississippi Valley State 43-7 on its home field.
JSU is the lone HBCU ranked in the poll heading into Week Four against Alabama State. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a program that won just four games the entire 2019 football season.
Sanders also knows that being ranked, in addition to the level of publicity his team has gotten, has put that target on his team’s back. Well, moreso than it already was.
“They’re gonna always be the hunted just because of me,” Sanders said during SWAC media day. “The thing about it, the same thing that provokes you to shine also shows your blemishes. That light — everybody wants to be in that light, but that light can work both ways for ya. We feel like we’re that team man, we want you to come at us. Everybody’s gonna come at us, we gon’ get their best. We should get their best. We want their best.”
This week Alabama State will look to try to be the first to chop Jackson State down to size. But Hill-Ely knows it won’t be easy. After facing JSU for several years, he noted the differences he sees in JSU under Deion Sanders.
“Those kids are playing hard. Undefeated, got a new swagger about themselves. Plays that they didn’t make last year— when you look at last year’s film — guys are playing above their heads,” he said. “So Coach Sanders is doing a good job of having those guys to play above themselves.”