JACKSON, Miss. — Deion Sanders wiped away tears of joy and passion before speaking.
Jackson State’s new football coach then stated “I believe” many times about what he envisions happening on and off the field.
“I have a commitment to excellence in each and every thing I do,” the Hall of Fame cornerback said during his introduction as the Tigers’ 21st head coach, a number also significant because of his jersey number and Monday’s date.
“We’re going to win. We’re going to look good while we win, and we’re going to have a good time while we win.”
Sanders’ introduction followed his announcement Sunday night. The player known as “Prime Time” added: “Isn’t this the time? Isn’t this the moment? Isn’t this what’s needed? It’s a match made in heaven.”
Currently the offensive coordinator at Trinity Christian School-Cedar Hill in Texas, Sanders is taking his first head coaching job.
“I’ve been offered pro jobs,” Sanders added, “so people know I could be an assistant in any college.”
The Southwestern Athletic Conference school introduced Sanders with the trademark pomp of a historically Black university. Its marching band led a police-escorted motorcade into an arena with a boisterous yet socially distanced audience. “Coach Prime” later opened a blue blazer lined with the JSU logo to much applause.
Acting Jackson State President Thomas Hudson called the hiring “the grace of God” and cited the school’s football history in landing Sanders.
“These things just come together,” Hudson added, crediting athletic director Ashley Robinson and alumni. “We’re just so very fortunate to really be in this space and have a man like this joining us.”
In a statement, Robinson said, “We expect to compete for and win championships at Jackson State, and Coach Sanders will help us achieve those goals.”
Sanders replaces John Hendrick, whose contract was not renewed this summer after going 6-9 and 5-5 in SWAC play. Sanders will begin coaching this spring after the SWAC postponed fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigers plan to begin an eight-game schedule in February.
He takes over a Tigers program that has produced fellow Hall of Famers such as Walter Payton, Lem Barney, Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile.
Sanders was a two-time All-American at Florida State before a standout NFL career with five teams including the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, winning a Super Bowl with each. He also earned eight Pro Bowl and nine first-team All-Pro selections during a career in which he also returned kicks and punts and played wide receiver. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Sanders also played nine seasons with four clubs in Major League Baseball, appearing in the 1992 World Series with the Atlanta Braves.