As I congratulate the Jackson State Tigers for clinching the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s (SWAC) Eastern Division title, it can’t be denied that Deion Sanders’ impact was swift and thorough as he transformed a program that was struggling to regain its prominence, as they fight back to the top of the division with the SWAC Championship on the horizon and a chance at a national championship.
Even if Sanders wins the SWAC Championship and goes on to win a national championship, it will not be his biggest fete this year.
With the game against Southern University in the balance, one of Sanders’ sons, Shedeur threw a game-winning touchdown. Shortly thereafter, with Southern driving on JSU, his other son Shiloh intercepted a pass that sealed the game. The Sanders family had been instrumental in securing the game for the Tigers.
Oddly, for me the biggest moment came after Shedeur’s touchdown throw. With Sanders in a wheelchair supporting his leg that is recovering from surgery, Sheduer ran over and hugged his dad. That was the moment where it all came to pass.
With imagery of absent or deadbeat black fathers being the dominant image of black families, it was critical to see that all black fathers are not that way. Sanders and his sons have a bond that is setting an example for not only the Jackson State players, but everyone in eye’s view.
Fuller turns down opportunity to coach at JSU
Corey Fuller, one of Deion Sanders’ best friends, turned down the opportunity to be on the JSU coaching staff. It seemed like an odd decision for a best friend, but Fuller explains for the first time.
“It didn’t start with Deion getting the job at Jackson State. It started when he came to town as a Pop Warner coach when Shedeur was 7 or 8 years old,” Fuller said. “I saw that Deion was sending plays to Shedeur through hand signals from the sideline. No other kids at that age were getting plays called from the sidelines with hand signals. That is when the power of a dad being in his kids’ lives daily hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Fuller’s son Chase is 13-years-old and is a star baseball prospect with exceptional talent. He plays on a regional baseball travel team that is tops in the country. The Fuller family has to travel three hours one way on many weekends so that Chase can participate with the team. Fuller has brought in the likes of Gary Sheffield and others to help train his son and help him get to the next level.
Deion Sanders talks of sharing this journey with his sons
Sanders has always talked about the pride he has in his sons and the love he has for them. He also thanked his ex-wife, Pilar, for giving him two wonderful sons to share his journey with.
Football is a great and highly-visible sport. When Sanders coached at Trinity High School in Texas as offensive coordinator, he would always post photos of pregame moments with his son. In 2020, Fuller and Sanders faced off as high school coaches as Fuller’s Gadsden County High School hosted Sanders’ Texas team. It was a hard-fought game, but after the game was something never seen before. Both teams were huddled up together on a knee as Fuller and Sanders spoke into their lives. It was less about football and more about life.
Fuller recalls the effect Sanders’ relationship with his sons and daughter had on him as a father. “When I saw what Deion was doing, I knew I couldn’t take the job at JSU. The job as a good father, he has led the way and it has allowed me to make the correct decision to be here to support my son.”