Jackson State is on the verge of accomplishing a significant milestone in the school's athletic program history. A national championship!
Though, it's not a coincidence.
The reign of Jackson State University's head coach Deion Sanders is rooted in the new HBCU world's "prime number" - 21.
JACKSON STATE'S PRIME NUMBER IS 21
Let's say 21 is a "Prime Number" for today's Jackson State Tigers program.
- Deion Sanders popularized the number 21 in professional football.
- Sanders was hired by athletic director Ashley Robinson to become the 21st head coach of football.
- The official announcement of Sanders' hiring was made on Sept. 21, 2020.
- Jackson State won the SWAC Championship in 2021.
"We ain't finished, yet. We got one more." Deion Sanders told the SWAC Championship crowd after the Tigers conquered Prairie View to claim the 2021 SWAC Championship on Saturday at home in Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Indeed, Jackson State is one win away from history.
50,128 football fans witnessed a JSU football to accomplish what has never occurred in the school's history - 11+ wins.
BELIEVE IN THE PURPOSE
Sanders admonished media, "You think everybody in here believed? None of y'all believe like that. Probably about 50% of y'all believed. You was doubtful [in the] high school guy. You know, pro experience, knew the game. But, you didn't understand what I was capable of. You didn't believe. Don't sit up here play like all y'all believe that we will be sitting right here at this moment, this time. Probably 20% of us in here, that really believe that we would be sitting here, at this moment, in this time."
Which is correct. In one season, Sanders and his staff revitalized a team, its culture, and the program's direction. Although, everyone wasn't supportive. I recall the salty grins on broadcasters' faces and those mocking tweets from "so-called pundits" when Sanders joined Jackson State.
Some believed the Tigers football team would turn into a "sideshow." Privately, I heard the chatter about "Neon Deion" garnering the spotlight. Through it all, not many knew his true intentions. Jackson State knew, and that's all it took to come to this point and moment in time.
Sanders continued, "And it's not arrogant. It's not cocky. It is, what it is. Don't do not allow my confidence to offend insecurities in here today. But, I promise you, we believed. The inner core, that nucleus of this team. Believed that we will be sitting right here in this moment. We really did."
WHAT'S NEXT FOR JSU?
On Dec. 18, Jackson State will square off against South Carolina State for the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl title in Atlanta, GA. Coach Prime will return to the city of the team that drafted him.
"Atlanta is special to me. That city is the city that chose me. And, I chose them. I really told those other teams, don't draft me, I want to go to Atlanta. So we kind of chose each other. And that city has always been dear to me. I've always called it home. I've always loved Atlanta. Respected Atlanta. Atlanta has been so good to me and I can't wait to get back," said Sanders in the SWAC Championship post-game press conference.
If the Tigers win, Sanders will accomplish what many considered unbelievable. Jackson State would become the 2021 Black College National Champions.
THE NEW KINGS, THE NEW LEGACY
As I was walking off the football field after the SWAC Championship trophy presentation, one of the assistant coaches yelled, "The New Kings of the SWAC" is here and many more years.
I saw Eddie Robinson's Grambling State teams in their heyday - the wins and losses. I met Eddie Robinson and nervously listened to a stately and noble gentleman for a few minutes. It was an impactful encounter for me.
Sanders is impactful. I dare to say, but will, that he may become this generation's Coach Rob to young football players. After the contest and being surrounded by fans and media, Prairie View A&M football players came over to meet Coach Sanders. What does that sign of respect say about Sanders?
Robinson's legacy wasn't just about football; it was about molding and shaping young men to become responsible and successful MEN.
Upon accepting the head coaching job at JSU, Sanders proclaimed, "God called him to the Jackson State." If God called him? Then Jackson State's Ashley Robinson was the vessel he used to make that call.
Deion Sanders, his staff, and his team have opened the eyes of many beyond the HBCU landscape. Sanders' calling is more profound and has a more extensive reach in today's meta-verse.
SANDERS AND ROBINSON ARE THE CORNERSTONES
Jackson State's athletic director Ashley Robinson is the creator of champions. Sanders extolled Robinson's accomplishments to reporters, "AD [Ashley Robinson] is the best in the business. Look at his track record. I don't think any AD in the country is accomplishing what he's accomplished. I know you're saying, well, this is the SWAC, it's his stage. This is what he has to work with. And, how many championships he have last year? Who else in the country as AD achieved nine championships. He needs a raise. I don't know what he's getting paid, but he needs a raise. He really does. And he's a wonderful man. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Ashley. I promise you. What he brings to the table is unbelievable. I love my AD."
The blueprint for success in Jackson, Mississippi, is no longer a draft; it is documented and soon to be archived. Other HBCU programs must follow suit. Most will be reluctant, but the "new foundation" has been laid by these cornerstones - Deion Sanders and Ashley Robinson.
This season for Jackson State isn't a coincidence, nor a mistake. It was destined to happen.
Before Sept. 21, 2021, Deion Sanders was already a legendary figure in the world of football. The question remains, will he continue to "walk in purpose" and allow himself to transform into an HBCU legend?
We shall see.
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