The respect Deion Sanders has garnered for his influence within HBCU football has expanded into the highest levels of the sport.
The third-year Jackson State coach is now being considered a college football power broker as described by ESPN senior reporter Adam Rittenberg because of the high-impact recruiting classes he’s compiled highlighted by No. 1 recruit Travis Hunter and his son, Shedeur Sanders.
“We opened up the eyes that you can go after a four-star, go after a five-star, and have an opportunity to win that kid over,” Sanders told Rittenberg. “But we go after the guys we want, not just because they’re four stars and five stars.”
Sanders also shared his perspective on NIL — the polarizing topic that has created division and uncertainty within major college football.
Ironically, it was Jackson State linebacker Antwan Owens who became the first-ever college athlete to sign a name, image and likeness deal when he did so last July.
“They’re not thinking about the scheme, not thinking about the [academic] majors offered, not thinking about the city, not thinking about how they’re going to fit in your program,” Sanders said. “It’s definitely a challenge for the FCS group, a tremendous challenge.”
Sanders continued on whether NIL could help athletes enhance their personal brand:
“I don’t get into building a brand, I get into, ‘Focus on your game,'” Sanders said. “If you’re garbage on the field, who wants your brand? We’ve got to start focusing on getting to the NFL, and not obtaining NIL [deals].”