Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders on Travis Hunter's fabulous freshman season
Jackson State football has locked up its second consecutive SWAC East title. The Tigers made history with their first undefeated regular season and are favorites to win back-to-back conference championship games.
JSU (11-0, 8-0 SWAC) has dominated the SWAC the past two seasons under third-season coach Deion Sanders. However, this season feels different – especially the last five games – due to star freshman Travis Hunter.
The former five-star prospect opened the season with two pass-breakups in a 59-3 victory over Florida A&M in the Southern Heritage Classic. Hunter would miss the next five games due to injury before returning for the Tigers' homecoming matchup against Campbell.
GRADES Jackson State football grades vs. Alcorn State: Making sense of unbeaten regular season
JACKSON STATE FOOTBALL Travis Hunter dominated and Jackson State is undefeated — but Deion Sanders wants more
Hunter had his breakout moment last week with a interception returned for a touchdown and a game-winning 19-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter in a 24-13 victory over Alcorn State.
Sanders isn't surprised about Hunter's immediate success.
"Travis is a great player," Sanders said Tuesday. "Travis was doing these types of things that you're now seeing him do in the spring. We were just competing against ourselves. Travis had that type of game in the spring game. That wasn't new to us. It was new to everyone out there.
"What you're seeing now is an opportunity to watch how he practices. That's the way he goes about practice."
Hunter has 13 catches for 140 yards and two TDs on offense and 12 tackles, two interceptions and nine pass-breakups this season.
Despite missing significant time due to injury, Hunter never lost hope of returning in time for the Tigers' title defense.
"Travis wants to be great," Sanders said. " You don't have to keep a person focused that is focused. You don't have to inspire a person that's already inspired. Travis is that kind of guy, so you don't have to pep him up and build him up.
"Travis don't flinch at all."
TRAVIS HUNTER For Travis Hunter, Jackson State football was the only choice — 3 reasons he's not alone
HALL OF FAME Jackson State football's Verlon Biggs, Kevin Dent named Black College Football HOF finalists
Jackson State must wait for the outcome of Southern's matchup against Grambling on Saturday to see who they'll face in the SWAC Championship on Dec. 3 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Meanwhile, the message remains the same from Sanders. The Tigers want to continue delivering hope to city of Jackson.
"We want to embody what the city of Jackson is and that's resilient," Sanders said. "We want to continue to be resilient, focused and determined with one particular goal in mind: to give and deliver hope. That's what we do."
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders on Travis Hunter