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Deion Sanders, Jackson State Host Travis Hunter in Rare Visit for Top Recruits and HBCUs

No. 1 Football Recruit visits with FCS Jackson State

By now, even the most casual college football fan has come across Deion Sanders' name this fall. 

Whether it be the remarkable job he's doing as Jackson State's head coach, the splashes of sound he consistently gives the SWAC and HBCUs on the national stage, his improved health or even the caricature-like Aflac commercials with Nick Saban -- the former NFL and college great has tangible buzz around what he is working on. 

Rarely coy, Sanders has even commented on being a candidate for some of the open vacancies at the FBS level before his first two seasons at JSU have come to an official close (and should be on radar for even more). High-profile transfers have been infused into the Tiger roster and the quick turnaround in perception around the program has been easy to grasp. 

Part of the call to attention for his mission and that of the HBCU athletics, itself, is to bring more football talent to that level. That part is getting better, thanks in large part to what he started in 2020, but getting elite recruits to consider JSU against Power 5 programs remains an uphill battle. 

"When you talk about recruiting, you've got to break this thing down in three," Sanders said in October. “You're talking about grad transfers, you're talking just guys in the Portal and you're talking about high school guys. What's your needs? What's your dern needs? What do you need right now? Do you have the time and is your college going to give you the time to develop these young men out of high school?

"Because that's predominantly, let's just say at the best, that's a two-year process.”

Step one of the high school battle, even with development in mind, is identifying elite talent sooner. A compliment to that is getting established talent -- coveted unanimously -- to see your campus in person over the same opportunity at the P5 level.

It's one thing for a transfer to take a trip in looking for his next stop, but it's entirely another for an elite high school recruit to do so before he signs with a particular institution. It makes headlines when one visits despite being committed to another program, even more so when it's the premiere recruit in the country. 

That next step was taken Saturday. Led by Sanders, JSU and the HBCU landscape may point to Travis Hunter visiting for the Alcorn State game as the next sign of tangible progress. 

The game probably felt like a normal recruiting visit to Hunter, who has attended games at Florida State and Georgia this fall. He spent time on the field in front of 62,512 people before kickoff. A Saturday sellout. 

"We've got to do the best that we can do to get those kids to HBCUs,” Sanders said of top talent.

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Hunter is the No. 1 recruit in the SI99 rankings and he holds the No. 1 post on other recruiting outlets as well. The visit is the only he's taken outside of the Power 5 in years, as far as we can track. Despite advances from Alabama, Michigan and other programs when his longtime commitment to Florida State appeared vulnerable, he did not visit. 

Yet he took in Jackson State's biggest game of the 2021 season. 

Hunter has long known Sanders and sure, connections to the program go beyond the famous coach due to its emergingly well-known roster including quarterback Shedeur Sanders. But that is true of perhaps a dozen programs relative to those pursuing the Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill two-way star. 

The day prior, in a playoff game in which he returned from a serious ankle injury suffered in the middle of the season, Hunter reminded college programs of the potential he has. The senior put up more than 100 yards and a touchdown on offense while complimenting the effort with an interception on the other side of the ball. 

The potential to perform as a lockdown cover corner and moonlight on offense and in the return game, at Florida State no less, has some in college football likening him to the coach able to get him on campus most recently -- Sanders. 

It may mean nothing. 

It could mean everything...eventually. 

Hunter has been steadfast in his commitment to Florida State, even earlier this fall when Mike Norvell's program slid to new lows in the loss column. He has since returned to Tallahassee and doubled down on his words, supporting new FSU pledges, celebrating the win over rival Miami and much more. 

Come December 15, when Hunter will officially end the recruiting process with his signature to one program, will there now be a Jackson State hat on the table alongside one to FSU and another to the in-state Bulldogs?

It may mean nothing to some, but it could mean everything to the next wave of talent to have eyes on the nation's best in 2022. 

The next step for Sanders and company would be reeling in a big fish like Hunter, though the follow up to the 2021 recruiting class should inch the program closer to that end point.