In this day and age, it’s rare that encore performances outdo their predecessors. Yet somehow, despite securing the SWAC title and earning the Eddie Robinson Award for the 2021 FCS Coach of the Year, Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders has put jaws on the floor with his latest feat: Stealing a top recruit from one of the most successful programs in college sports.
Cornerback Travis Hunter, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the country, flipped his commitment from Florida State to Jackson State on Wednesday to become the first five-star high school football prospect to sign with an FCS team since ESPN started its rankings in 2006.
For those of you who have no godly idea how much of a big goddamn deal this is, it’s important to note that we haven’t seen something like this happen in...decades. With HBCUs becoming more and more of an attractive destination to top high school recruits, reeling in big names is no longer much of a surprise. But when you can convince a player who’s already committed to what Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel’s calls one of “richest and most successful programs in the country” to play for you at an HBCU, that’s more than jaw-dropping. That’s historic.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Artist Formerly Known As Prime Time might have his faults, but in recognizing that HBCUs don’t have access to the same resources as their bigger-name counterparts, he’s leveraged his celebrity to balance the scales—as evidenced by SWAC’s sponsorship deal with Pepsi, as well as Jackson State games being broadcasted on ESPN.
What makes Sanders’ heist even wilder is that Hunter, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound prospect out of Collins High School in Suwanee, Ga., had committed to Florida State waaaaaaaay back in March of 2020.
“Florida State has always been a beacon for me,” Hunter said in a statement on Wednesday. “I grew up down there, that’s where my roots are, and I never doubted that I would play for the Seminoles. It’s a dream that is hard to let go of, but sometimes we are called to step into a bigger future than the one we imagined for ourselves. For me, that future is at Jackson State University.”
He continued, “Historically Black Colleges and Universities have a rich history in football. I want to be part of that history, and more, I want to be part of that future. I am making this decision so that I can light the way for others to follow, make it a little easier for the next player to recognize that HBCUs may be everything you want and more.”
Hunter will join a stacked recruiting class that includes Deion’s son, quarterback Sheduer Sanders, as well as other ESPN 300 recruits Trevonte Rucker, Katron Evans, and Quaydarius Davis.