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Deion Sanders and Shedeur Sanders Challenge 'The Level of Competition' Narrative

Deion Sanders and his son challenge the "level of competition" narratives about HBCU programs and Shedeur Sanders' success.

On September 20, 2020, sportswriters and pundits scoffed at his appointment as a college football head coach. These days, his interviews, recruiting strategies, and press conference quotes have his one-time naysayer hinging on his every word.  

Jackson State's leader, Deion Sanders, has not only breathed life into HBCU football and sports but has transformed the college sports scene. His thoughts on college and professional football have become a marketing bonanza for his sons, players, and media.  

Deion and Shedeur Challenging the Narrative

I recently interviewed Shedeur for his new NIL deal with PLBSE and his new BBQ sauce launch in Krogers and the JSU campus bookstore. Shedeur and his father have strong opinions on whether or not he's Heisman-worthy. The young quarterback unpacked his thoughts to me when people questioned the level of competition he's faced.

"We would go to the competition route," Sanders eased into his theory. "So, if you're at an HBCU, you may play the best competition [compared to a Power 5], right? I don't respect it when people say it's the competition. If you're at a school like Alabama, Ohio State, like those big schools, you have everything around you. As you go up, the competition around you goes up. I don't pay that stuff any mind. At the end of the day, I know who I am as a person. I know what I do. I know toe-to-toe that if you put me behind one of those [Power 5] offenses, it's going to be the same result."

Numbers and winning don't lie. As a freshman, he led the Tigers to a 12-2 overall record and the 2021 SWAC Football Championship title. Although the team lost to South Carolina State in the 2021 Celebration Bowl, Shedeur and his father believe Jackson State is "PRIMED" to dominate HBCU football.

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Coach Sanders told Rich Eisen, "Because we're at Jackson State, and the search for equality is a consistent search. We're often underfunded and overlooked. And I'm not going to allow that. Not either one. So Shedeur, when you look at numbers, then you don't have to just look at numbers." Deion Sanders continued, "I know a pro when I see a pro. Like when I say 'that guy is a pro or this guy we played against as a pro. This receiver I have on my team is a pro.' I'm just validating. I know what it looks like [to be a pro].  

Shedeur is ranked 3rd among FCS quarterbacks with 1,394 passing yards and 4th in overall passing efficiency with a 174.26 rating. He has tossed 14 touchdowns and one interception in four games — impressive numbers for the sophomore.

Shedeur Sanders

"The kid was 21 to 24 at halftime [vs. Mississippi Valley State]. I mean, he then ended up 41-for-50, 430 yards," coach Sanders shared with Eisen, who challenged him with the level of competition narrative.

"I mean, they're drafting kids from HBCUs. They're drafting kids from FBS and FCS. You're drafting kids from both of these conferences. So if you're draftable, and kids are going to [the] pros from these conferences. Why can't they be considered?"

The 2022 NFL Draft had four HBCU players taken, with three on active rosters and one landed on his team's practice squad. That player is with the Detroit Lions and is none other than Jackson State's linebacker James Houston IV.

Coach Prime and his son will continue the charge in breaking through the stereotypical measuring sticks that most NFL scouting departments have used for many seasons. Shedeur is confident in his talent and skills. Not just because he's a Sanders, but also because he's worthy of being in the conversations as one of the best college football players.


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