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Opinion: My time with Coach Prime

Deion Sanders auburn
Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News

Confidence is an understatement when you listen to players talk about playing for Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders. The motivation he generates toward student-athletes, his unwavering belief in each and every one of them, and his faith in the football program he’s part of make Coach Prime one of the best college football coaches in America.

I was lucky enough to meet and talk to Coach Prime one night in Jackson right after he was hired by Jackson State in 2020. I was traveling up to the capital city to cover the Long Beach High School boys’ soccer team in the MHSAA state championship when I met my mother, former State Sen. Deborah Dawkins, at the Homewood Suites in Fondren.

Mom and I began walking down the hallway when we heard a brief shout: “Hey pretty lady, where’d you get those shoes from?”

As we both turned around, we noticed who we immediately recognized as Coach Prime. He introduced himself, gave my mother a hug, and shook my hand before taking the time out of his day to sit down and talk to us.

He was seriously intrigued by my mother’s shoes. He asked where she got them from and insisted on getting a pair as he had been dealing with foot issues. He later would have two toes amputated while trying to recover from foot surgery.

Maybe the best pure athlete I have been alive to see, Prime Time played 16 years professionally as both a football and baseball player. And not only played but excelled in both sports. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame as a defensive back and wide receiver and stole nearly 200 bases during his time in the MLB.

Athleticism aside, Coach Prime quickly showed us that he’s just as pure a human. Stopping two random people in Jackson, Mississippi that he had never met before to talk shoes before delving into a full-on conversation for what I’d say was a little over a half hour.

When I asked Coach Prime about recruiting kids to play at Jackson State, he spoke of his conviction regarding college athletes needing to understand the importance of education, preparation, and faith in their lives.

Additionally, he talked extensively about his love and appreciation for Jackson State and his hopes of bringing in big outside stars to witness the change that was happening within the program (Spoiler: He did just that. Beyoncé, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg were just a few on the laundry list of celebrities that came to visit during the Deion Sanders era in Jackson).

Overall, Coach Prime showed the most humility out of any icon I have ever met. And that says a lot because I have been fortunate to meet a lot of celebrities throughout my time as a congressional staffer, coach, and journalist.

Both Sen. Dawkins and I thoroughly enjoyed our brief encounter with Coach Prime and left that conversation having more faith in the Jackson State football program than ever before. So, this past weekend’s upset victory for the Sander-led Colorado Buffaloes over No. 17 TCU may have been a surprise to some, but it definitely wasn’t to me.

The aura this man has and the respect he demands when he walks into the room or takes control of the sidelines is not only astounding but inspirational. I think we would all love to have just a smidgen of the attributes Coach Prime displays on a daily basis.

On top of his success on the field in Jackson – which included consecutive SWAC championships and Celebration Bowl appearances – Sanders brought a lot of hope to a city that truly needed it. He was a ray of sunshine amid arguably the worst of the water crisis and created millions and millions of dollars worth of economic impact for the city of Jackson and surrounding neighborhoods.

Although I am not a Colorado fan by heart, I will always be a Deion Sanders fan and am very thankful for the time he spent with us discussing his life, the struggles and joys of coaching, and his goals for his players to succeed not only on the field but in the game of life. Coach Prime represents how I believe college football should be today.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of SuperTalk Mississippi Media.

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