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Deion Sanders, Jackson State navigate clouds to shine light on HBCU football

Deion Sanders and Jackson State brought HBCU culture to the forefront of college football on Saturday.

JACKSON, MS — All week, the forecast in Jackson, Mississippi called for rain on Saturday morning — specifically in the time that College Gameday was set to take place. But Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders believed, and he prayed. 

“I was praying and praying, praying that God would not allow it to rain and storm so that we could show America that we could show up and show up,” Sanders told the media after the game. “And we did.”

The rain did come down in Jackson, but that was after College Gameday and during a 22-point outburst in the second quarter of what was to become a 35-0 win over one of JSU’s fiercest rivals. But that was simply the icing on the cake for Deion Sanders. 

“I’m so darn proud of Jackson, Mississippi,” Sanders said. “You have no idea…just driving through the crowd on the way to the stage had me darn, near in tears, just thinking about where we started from and where we are today. Then that was like the appetizer. The main course was going out there without any inclement weather early on in the game and allowed us to do what we do.”

The College Gameday brand has an almost cult following, which includes programs like Washington State and Clemson, who show up almost everywhere. And they were in Jackson as well.

“It was phenomenal. It really was,” Sanders said. “It took me back, once I rode through and got there in that seat to feel it.”



While the crowd at College Gameday was mostly Jackson State, there was plenty of Columbia Blue and Gold  — Southern’s colors — as well as other SWAC schools and other HBCUs in general.  Reggie, a North Carolina A&T alumnus, skipped his homecoming to drive from Charlotte, NC to Jackson. 

“It was a game-changer for all HBCUs,” he said. “It’s just not Jackson State and Southern. It’s all HBCUs.”

Reggie wasn’t the only HBCU alumnus skipping out on their homecoming to come to Jackson. Amber, a Houston native, represented Texas Southern in Jackson instead of heading to its homecoming. 

“I am appreciating what Deion Sanders is bringing to the SWAC and I just came to support,” she said. “I’ve been following the movement. What he’s doing is phenomenal for, not just Jackson State, but it trickles down to all of us.”

Sanders agreed in his post-game press conference. 

“And to turn around and see Southern cheerleaders right there. Jackson State’s right there. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what I’ve been talking about. Equality, you know. So it would be a dern fool of us to just hoard all the attention. All the love and not share with our brothers and sisters. And we shared it. And then the city shared their love and I love it. It was a beautiful thing. Beautiful thing. I’ll never forget that moment.”

Despite all the feel-good moments and the weather holding off, the clouds in the sky weren’t the only ones hanging over Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

It was a largely feel-good moment in a feel good weekend. Except for when the subject of Sanders’ futurespecifically whether or not he would take another job after the season — was discussed. The crowd didn’t take too kindly to it, but Sanders skillfully and honestly answered the question in a way that seemed to calm the anxiety around his future, if only for a moment.

“When we cross that hurdle, we gonna cross that hurdle.  I’d be a fool and a liar to tell you that I’m not going to entertain those things — because I am,” Sanders said. “But I have made no plans to move, I have made no plans to go anywhere. I have made plans to dominate today.”

And that, Deion Sanders and Jackson State did on Saturday as they improved to 8-0. No one knows for sure what the future holds for the coach, his program and HBCU football after this season. But for one shining moment, the eyes of the college football world were in a predominantly black city thanks to a historically black college making history one win and viral victory at a time.

Deion Sanders, Jackson State navigate clouds to shine light on HBCU football
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