Imagine a sunny and cool afternoon at "THEE Cathedral" of college football in Jackson, Mississippi - Veterans Memorial Stadium. A site where many HBCU football classics have taken place.
Patrolling one sideline would be the leader of the newly-crowned "Kings of the SWAC,' Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. A one-time Sanders teammate, adversary, and foe is standing on the other sideline. It's none other than the GOAT, Jerry Rice.
Of course, the battle will take place on the gridiron between the young combatants. Nonetheless, the renewed rivalry between two legends could be monumental for HBCU football.
JERRY RICE AS A HEAD COACH?
Could a clash of this magnitude become a reality? Well, according to the legendary wide receiver from Mississippi Valley State University, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds.
Rice and I had a candid chat. I asked the Hall of Fame player if he has contemplated becoming a head coach. "Not until Deion [Sanders], with Jackson State," said Rice. "Because I felt like I played the game for such a long time. And I was so totally committed. And I just poured everything into my career, that I didn't have anything left. Because, as a coach, you really don't have a life. I mean, coaching. It is hard, man, it takes up the majority of your time. But yeah, it takes a total commitment. And you got to be all in. So, it started to cross my mind just a little bit, now," stated Rice.
DEION SANDERS ON COACHING
In my recent conversation with Coach Sanders, I recalled what he mentioned about his assistant coaches' possibility of leaving the Jackson State program for a head coaching position. "The thing that people must realize is you got to recruit, man. You got to be able to compile a staff to be able to recruit, as well as lead [young] men. And, I feel like several of our coaches can possibly do that for sure. The problem is, I don't see too many coaches want to leave this situation [at Jackson State]." He continued, "so you go to really consider what you're asking our coaches. They ain't crazy, now."
Could Rice tackle the demands of a head coach? It's more than the Xs and Os. The hours of managing young men, coaches, fans, alumni, media, and even social media are tasking efforts, but all in the day of the life of today's head coaches. Jerry Rice's work ethic is undeniable. His legendary workouts, pace, and grind propelled him into becoming a tremendous player, competitor, and an all-time great.
JERRY RICE ON RECRUITING
The importance of recruiting isn't lost on Rice as he noted the needs at his alma mater, Mississippi Valley State. "But you know, you got to get certain recruits. It's important to get those top recruits in there that you can put into your program to make your program so much better. So, I think they're going to get better because of what's happening at Jackson State University."
The current crop of former NFL players and coaches flocking to an HBCU has impacted college football, and highly talented recruits and transfer portal student-athletes are taking notice. Not many could deny playing for a Deion Sanders (Jackson State), Eddie George (Tennessee State), Hue Jackson (Grambling State), Eddie Robinson Jr. (Alabama State), Bubba McDowell (Prairie View A&M), Tyrone Wheatley (Morgan State), or Robert Massey (Winston-Salem State) wouldn't positively help a player with NFL aspirations.
It's not a mistake that highly-touted players like CB Travis Hunter and Kevin Coleman have flipped and committed to Jackson State during this recruitment cycle. The 2021-22 JSU recruits are among the best in college football. Head coaches in the Power 5 are observing how and why recruits are turning to HBCUs. Let's be honest, would any parent, guardian, or young recruit decline and Zoom discussion or sitting down with Hall of Famers Jerry Rice or Deion Sanders?
The legacy of Jerry Rice as an HBCU legend, Black College Football Hall, College Football, and NFL Hall of Fame member won't be tarnished if he throws his hat into the collegiate coaching ring. The question is, could an HBCU tempt Rice to leave the comforts of retirement and join the coaching ranks?
We shall see.
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