GOAT respects GOAT. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders were the greatest of all time at their respective positions in NFL history.
The Pro Football Hall of Famers respected, admired, and inspired one another as teammates and competitors. Their fierce battles during playoff games as rivals were legendary.
Jerry Rice told comedian Kevin Hart, "I hated that guy, man [Deion Sanders]. Ah, man, we couldn't get along. If Deion was on the opposite side. It was going down the next day."
Over a decade later, Sanders and Rice are no longer combatants on the gridiron. However, their influence on football remains, and their mutual regard.
Most have forgotten Rice's prowess on the football fields of HBCU football in the SWAC at Mississippi Valley State University. If you're once in the SWAC, it's in your blood. And, Rice has been observing his friend from afar.
"I wanted to represent the HBCU the right way. That was so important for me. I want to hit on this too because I think Deion Sanders is doing a fantastic job at Jackson State University," noted Rice. Coach Deion Sanders led the JSU Tigers football team to an 11-2 record in 2021. Jackson State has been transformed into an HBCU powerhouse in collegiate athletics since Sanders arrived at the university in less than a year.
As his team prepared for the Celebration Bowl against South Carolina State, Sanders told me it was important that his team "finished" the season on top of HBCU football. Unfortunately for JSU, they fell 31-10 to the Bulldogs and lost their HBCU National Championship bid in the process. Nonetheless, Sanders and Jackson State instantaneously raised the level of competition, recruitment, and HBCU football's notoriety, which Rice observed.
"And now you see in some of these top recruits going to those black schools. And they feel like, you know what, I can get a great education here. But, if I want to get to the next level to I can get to the next level."
Jerry Rice references the nation's top recruits, cornerback Travis Hunter and wide receiver Kevin Coleman. Both young men committed to attending Jackson State over Power 5 programs. Their decision shocked Division I coaches, media, and college analysts who believe spurning top-ranked schools were a mistake. Also, a few insinuated improprieties were in play via NIL contracts. No one has substantiated these claims.
Sanders has influenced Rice. I asked Rice if he 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," noted Rice.
He concluded, "I take my hat off to Deion, [for] what he's doing? He played with swagger in the NFL, and he's coaching with swagger at Jackson State University."
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