At some point, Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders sat on campus in the team meeting room 2.7 miles away from Veterans Memorial Stadium. On Saturday night, after beating Southern 43-24 to win back-to-back SWAC Championship games, Sanders told his players the reports they have been hearing were true.
While Sanders was telling his team the news of his hiring at Colorado, the Jackson State media room was packed with TV crews with standing-room-only press, waiting to hear from him.
Southern coach Eric Dooley was being interviewed while the Tigers were on the field accepting their trophy as Sanders tried to enter the press room. Sanders' good friend and Black media personality Roland Martin had to stand against the wall as Dooley finished talking. It was explained later that Sanders tried to enter the room but it was so packed that he could not open the door and left.
"I would like for y'all to hear it from me and not anyone else," said Sanders, who was hired in September 2020 and has compiled a 27-5 record in three seasons. "In coaching you either in coaching you get elevated or you get terminated. Ain't no other way. There is no graveyard for coaches where they die at the place, either you go walk off on your own recognize or get run off. There ain't no other way. I have chosen to accept the job elsewhere next year. I am going to finish what we started. We are going to dominate and I will be here until that end and that conclusion and then we are going to move on."
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Sanders, the member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, told his team he is not tired of fighting. He talked about his faith, how he believed he was called to come to Jackson State. How he would question why as a player he could be so dominant and yet have to play for five football teams. To him, that did not make any sense.
"I had to understand that when he is taking you from faith to faith," the 55-year-old Sanders said, "and glory to glory that is why God would allow him to play for five darn football teams and four baseball teams. It is not supposed to happen like that. But, I understand the calling that he has on my life. I feel like I have to do something about it."
Sanders will still coach Jackson State when the Tigers (12-0) face North Carolina Central (9-2, 4-1) in the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 (11 a.m., ABC) in Atlanta.
Sanders also talked about Black coaches being fired in the NFL and there wasn't another Black candidate to replace them. For Sanders, that is a problem.
"If someone doesn't step up and step out and hold it down for us," Sanders said. "That is a problem. Many of the detractors don't understand that college football consists of 70% African Americans. It just happens to be more at an HBCU. It is not like I am not going to speak into young African American men alike, because my challenge is still to provoke change no matter where I am at."
Sanders said leaving is the toughest moment ever because it involves his team. The move to Colorado is not about making money, Sanders said, but an opportunity.
"Don't jump into the portal," Sanders told his team, "whether it is 11 or 22, we are going to Atlanta to kick some butt. I would hate for you to be at home looking at us on TV doing our thing. Make sure you choose properly and if anyone has a problem, I would want you to come straight to me about it so I can set you straight. So I can give you some real direction in life and what I see for you and what I think you should do as a man. I won't tell you no wrong, I am going to tell you right."
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: What Jackson State coach Deion Sanders told players about leaving