Is Jackson State a Serious Division I Contender? 

NFL Hall of Famer and Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders has turned the university into a powerhouse 

By JT Scott 

Ever since being hired to coach Jackson State in September 2020, Deion Sanders has helped turn the program into a hotspot for high school recruits by building a reputation for winning. 

This past year, Jackson State had its best season, going 11-2 in regular season play and being invited to the Celebration Bowl. Despite losing 31-10 to South Carolina State, it marked the first bowl game appearance for the HBCU since 1971’s Azalea Bowl victory over Alabama State. 

The team won nine straight games to start the year and remained undefeated for 84 days. In those wins, the team held a combined average margin of victory of nearly 19 points. 

The team is led at quarterback by Deion’s son, Shedeur Sanders, who had a tremendous 2021 season with over 3,000 passing yards, 66% completion, 30 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Sanders was also named FCS Top Freshman of the Year in 2021. 

The son of the Hall of Famer signed a deal with Gatorade, becoming the first HBCU student-athlete to join the Gatorade roster. Sanders is expected to make around $600,000 from this deal because of his social media presence and his amazing play on the field. 

“I’m honored to be a part of the Gatorade family. First and foremost, I’m blessed. It’s a great opportunity. As a kid, I was drinking Gatorade regularly. So now that we have the opportunity to partner with the team and be a part of Gatorade, I’m very blessed,” said Sanders via Instagram.  

On top of having the best season in school history and multiple players signing deals and contracts, the biggest news for Jackson State came from a high school recruit. 

On National Signing Day, the No. 1 high school recruit—Travis Hunter—flipped his commitment from Florida State University to Jackson State. This made history as Hunter was the first No. 1 recruit ever to commit to an HBCU. 

This announcement sparked a change amongst the top recruits in the nation and more players started considering attending HBCUs. 

With a possible shift in college football power rankings, iPulse asked Lynn University students their opinions of Jackson State. 

“I was shocked when Travis Hunter switched his commitment,” said Pierre Stroh, freshman. “I wanted him to go to FSU so it kinda sucks.” 

Other college football fans like Nick Zimmerman are happy to see Jackson State get recognition. 

“I like that Jackson State is now a powerhouse,” said Nick Zimmerman, sophomore. “I really like what Deion is doing with the program and he’s given a lot of opportunities to kids.” 

Coach Sanders has big hopes for Jackson State in the future and plans on getting more top recruits to commit to the program. His main goal is getting every player on his team to the next level of football, whether it be the NFL, arena football or the XFL. 

Coach Deion Sanders in action at Jackson State. Photo/ 
Travis Hunter changes his commitment from FSU to Jackson State on National Signing Day. 
Shedeur Sanders announcing his partnership with Gatorade via Instagram. 

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