Sports

Deion Sanders’ attempt to become a savior for HBCU football was always gonna fail because of his ego

Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders greets his defensive squad after they recovered a Mississippi Valley State fumble for a touchdown in March, 2021.

Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders greets his defensive squad after they recovered a Mississippi Valley State fumble for a touchdown in March, 2021.
Image: AP

There’s no “i” in team, but there’s one in Deion. It’s smack dab in the middle of the name. And that makes so much sense after you remember that Deion Sanders loves to make everything about himself. It’s never about “us” or “we,” because to him, that “i” is all that matters.

On Monday, the Jackson State head coach took to Instagram to voice his frustration about the fact that of the 259 selections that were made in the 2021 NFL Draft, none of them came from HBCU programs.

“And we have the Audacity to Hate on one another while our kids are being NEGLECTED & REJECTED. I witnessed a multitude of kids that we played against that were more than qualified to be drafted. My prayers are that This won’t EVER happen again. Get yo knife out my back and fight with me not against me!”

What Sanders didn’t mention is that the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged HBCU football in 2020. Some programs didn’t play at all, while others played shortened seasons in the spring, like Jackson State, where Sanders’ program finished 4-3. However, when you look a little deeper you’ll realize that one of those wins, via a score of 53-0, came against Edward Waters College, an NAIA school that was 1-10 in their last full season of football. Another win came against Alcorn State, which was granted to Jackson State after Alcorn forfeited their spring season. So I’ll let you be the judge of what the Tigers’ true record was.

“We did not want to come to an abrupt ending like it did,” Sanders said last month. “It happened, and the guys are not happy by any means, coaches as well, but it is what it is. We’ve got to do what’s best for the kids and protect them at all costs.”

Sanders’ words were the exact opposite of what he said late last summer when he chastised athletes – of all ages, paid or unpaid – for opting out of playing during the pandemic, saying that the game would “go on without you,” because “no one” is bigger than the game.

You see, smoke screens like this are part of Sanders’ arsenal, as he’s really good at using them. He’s a master at making you believe he cares about something when his track record says otherwise. And a great example of that is this idea that he cares about HBCU football, Jackson State, or young athletes.

Let Sanders tell it, and you’d think that this was the first year that players from HBCUs weren’t selected in the NFL Draft. When in fact, this was the ninth time since 2000 that it’s happened. But, did you see Sanders celebrating when Tennessee State’s LaChavious Simmons was a seventh-round pick in 2020? Or when North Carolina A&T, Prairie View A&M, and Morgan State were all represented in the 2019 draft?

No, you didn’t. Why? Because it didn’t serve Sanders or the narrative he wants to sell you.

An example of that is how Sanders’ son, Shedeur — a four-star quarterback recruit — has already locked down the starting gig for the fall season as a freshman, as three of JSU’s quarterbacks have entered the transfer portal. However, if HBCU football meant so much to the Sanders family, then why wasn’t Shedeur entertaining offers from HBCU programs until his father took over one?

According to ESPN, of the 20-plus schools that were recruiting Shedeur Sanders, none of them were HBCUs. He was committed to Florida Atlantic before switching to JSU after his father got the job.

Interesting.

Oh, and remember when Sanders talked about how kids were being “neglected and rejected,” and how he had a “knife” in his back? Well, it’s just another smokescreen to distract you from all the kids he’s “neglected.”

“I was told because of the classes that I had took at Deion Sanders’s school [Prime Prep Academy] — that he had built, that he created, that he told us that it would be accredited, which it wasn’t — those classes, unfortunately, they did not count,” DeMarcus Peterson told the Washington Post about his time on the track team at Texas Southern, an HBCU. “It kind of was a waste of time.”

“It’s good to say I played for [Sanders]. I was an athlete for him at his school,” Peterson explained. “But when you look at it, it’s just kind of a huge fallacy.”

In 2016, the Dallas Morning News examined Sanders’ “Prime Prep,” which was an epic failure, as he was once fired, re-hired, fired, and re-hired again at the school. And in 2019, Sanders was the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill when the school was kicked out of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools after a slew of probations and violations.

“Basically any school that needed you to play that first year, they weren’t going to recruit me, pretty much. That kind of negated a bunch of opportunities,” Christian Gibson told the Washington Post, as he too – like Peterson – attended Sanders’ Prime Prep.

If this was truly about “the kids”, then why does Sanders refuse to talk about his past of working with “the kids?” This is why it’s so important that others are actually looking out for the well-being of HBCU athletes. Last year, the NFL and Black College Football Hall of Fame hosted their third annual quarterback coaching summit. It’s an event that was created to give offensive coaches at HBCUs – and PWIs – networking opportunities and professional development. I’ve been to the event, Sanders has not. And earlier this year, it was announced that a postseason all-star game called the Legacy Bowl was being created to showcase draft-eligible players from HBCUs.

Be clear, the work is being done: Sanders just isn’t the one doing it.

Oh yeah, and before I forget. Jackson State’s baseball team has a chance of going undefeated in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Too bad the school doesn’t have a former professional baseball player around that could be a cheerleader for them and shine a big old spotlight on the program’s success. When you’re so focused on yourself, though, it’s hard to acknowledge anybody else’s accomplishments.


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