Well that was awkward. After drafting James Houston from Jackson State in the sixth round the Detroit Lions immediately showcased his highlight reel across social media. There was only one problem. The Lions exclusively used highlights from Houston’s playing days at the University of Florida.
It didn’t take long for Deion Sanders, Houston’s coach at Jackson State, to take notice. The following was posted to the official Instagram account of Sanders, although it was noted that the post was made by Deion Sanders Jr.
“You serious @detroitlionsnfl? You post James Houston’s University of Florida Highlights instead of his at Jackson State? With all the trials we go through at HBCU’s, you can at least give us the credit & recognition we deserve. Don’t punish HBCU’s nor our players over A QUOTE that my dad said over 20 something years ago…. Btw – At JSU he had 70 tackles (52 solo), 24.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, & 2 defensive touchdowns,” the post read.
Deion Sanders was apprehensive about getting drafted by the Detroit Lions when he entered the 1989 NFL Draft. When the Lions selected Barry Sanders instead Sanders said, ““I was kind of scared; I thought Detroit was going to take me. I would’ve asked for so much money they would’ve had to put me on layaway.” It’s not for certain if that is the quote that Sanders Jr. was referencing.
A report from Justin Rogers of the Detroit News says that the team didn’t have access to any Jackson State highlights and had to use what they could find.
“Was told team didn’t have access to them through database service they use and school didn’t respond to initial requests, so to be consistent with getting package out, team was forced to lean on Florida footage. Nothing more,” Rogers wrote on Twitter.
How hard did the team try? It’s a question that can’t be answered from afar, but Jackson State highlights aren’t hard to find. Houston has plenty on his timeline. The Tigers were on the ESPN family of networks more than any other HBCU this past season. If Detroit can’t get a game melt featuring Houston from the World Wide Leader, it’s because they didn’t ask. Having worked in the television industry in days when footage was transferred by satellite uplinks, even then you could get something same day if you really wanted it.
JSU has been readily documented
Deion Sanders has an entire production company following him at every game, at every practice. I’m quite sure that they would have been willing to offer footage if asked. Here at HBCU Gameday we have provided footage to several outlets and organizations who couldn’t “find” any otherwise. Not suggesting that we are on Detroit’s friends and family list, but most producers find us with a quick google search of whatever player they are interested in.
I don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy here, but a little more in the effort department would have been nice. It’s a day later and still nothing to visually show the HBCU representation. It matters.
The fact that zero HBCU players were selected in last year’s draft has been a huge talking point all season long. One that Detroit’s General Manager, Brad Holmes, a North Carolina A&T alum ironically, is well aware of. He addressed it with the media this weekend.
“When it comes from an HBCU perspective, I know a lot was made in the past, especially last year, about none being selected. I was very happy to see even before we took James but others selected. The Fayetteville State kid (Joshua Williams) and the South Carolina State kid (Decobie Durant), so it was good to see progress made on that front,” Holmes said.
The action was there by drafting Houston in the first place. The words were there in the press conference. But the imagery just fell flat. Houston was also largely featured in his East West Shrine Game jersey on Detroit’s social media pages. I know all too well that the infrastructure behind the distribution of HBCU Media is still a work in progress. But if you can’t find anything, you can find Jackson State content.
The Jump in Production
Jackson State provided an opportunity to really showcase Houston’s versatility and all of his strengths as a player. His tackles went from 37 to 70 at Jackson State and most impressively he racked up 16.5 sacks, compared to his one at Florida his junior season.
Houston earned his spot as a NFL draftee with his Florida is definitely a part of his journey. To show the Gator highlights is fair game but zero Jackson State highlights is a blunder that shouldn’t have happened.
The Tigers were on the ESPN family of networks more than any other HBCU this past season. The game highlights would have been very easy to access. His pick six against Prairie View A&M. His fumble return for a touchdown at Alabama A&M. Any of his 16.5 sacks at JSU would have gotten Lions fans excited.
Houston was also the 100th player drafted in the NFL out of Jackson State, something else the Lions could have highlighted as well.
The most important thing is that Houston is a staunch advocate for Jackson State and his experience there. His IG post and hashtag #TheeProblem on Saturday was an easy reminder of his love for JSU.
James Houston is the first HBCU player drafted by the Lions since 2013. Houston is also the second-highest Jackson State player selected by the Lions. Hall of Fame defensive back Lem Barney was taken in the second round of the 1967 draft.
If Houston can deliver on some of the magic he performed at Jackson State in Detroit, hopefully JSU will receive its proper due.