Surrounded by reporters inside a Birmingham, Alabama convention center four months before the start of the fall season, Shedeur Sanders — in a suit and tie — explained just how much better he thought Jackson State was than the competition.
When asked to assess a roster that had been comprised of FBS transfers and talented high school recruits, the true freshman quarterback brazenly stated the Tigers were “different” than a “regular SWAC team.”
Some might have taken exception to those comments, but Saturday — back in Alabama again — Sanders and his teammates laid bare just how right the youngster was with a 61-15 triumph over defending conference champion Alabama A&M.
In a week where verbal and visual shots were fired across the bow about scooters and high roads, Jackson State made its most profound statement of the season and of the Deion Sanders era.
After playing inconsistently through the first four games of the regular season, JSU asserted its dominance against the Bulldogs.
The catalyst, as it’s been all year, was the defense led by senior James Houston, who stripped the ball from Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass and raced 67 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
It was not the last time a member of what is now a vaunted defensive front met Glass in the backfield. JSU hounded the pro prospect all afternoon, moving him off his spot, making him uncomfortable, and sacking him a record 10 times.
When it wasn’t Houston creating havoc, it was Aubrey Miller, Jr. CJ Holmes, Nyles Gaddy and Shilo Sanders flying around the ball.
All told, the 11-man unit held the Bulldogs to just eight net yards rushing. It was another impressive performance for a defense that is one of the best in the FCS.
And then there was Shedeur Sanders, the 4-star kid who knew this potential was possible all along — playing arguably his most complete game so far, throwing for 249 yards and four touchdowns with a single turnover.
His growth has been aided with the budding talent made up of receivers Keith Corbin, Trevonte Rucker, and the best pure athlete on the field in most games 5-foot-8 senior Warren Newman. They combined to haul in 15 receptions for more than 230 yards.
If any side looked regular and in need of more 5-stars, or motorized scooters to heal after these 60 minutes, it was Connell Maynor and his bunch after enduring a 46-point drubbing.
And Sanders playfully let Maynor know about when he provided an autographed mini scooter to the Bulldogs coach after the game.
“With love, #CoachPrime,” Sanders tweeted after the game. “I apologize for giving him what he asked for!!! I’m from FLORIDA y’all know how we get down. THEE I LOVE JSU!!!”
With love, #CoachPrime. I apologize for giving him what he asked for!!! I’m from FLORIDA y’all know how we get down. THEE I LOVE JSU!!! @GoJSUTigersFB @danabeers @SMAC @barstoolsports @SnoopDogg pic.twitter.com/ZPqxBbniSk
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) October 10, 2021
Call the gesture rubbing salt into an already hemorrhaging ego or even returning the favor after months of banter from a rival coach. But it was a candid announcement that JSU is simply better than everyone else at this point and that reality should be accepted.
While Alabama A&M, Florida A&M, Prairie View and Alcorn State are contenders in the league, they don’t look like Jackson State or feel like Jackson State.
Those programs are not this. The road to the Celebration Bowl appears to be going through Jackson State.
Shedeur Sanders saw it in the spring and said as much while in a tailored suit and wry smile on his face.
Now the rest of the SWAC is learning how prophetic his words were.