Coach Sanders is Frustrated with the Lack of Opportunities for his SWAC Champion Graduating Seniors
In his post-game press conference Coach Deion Sanders was asked about his role in helping his seniors, like All-SWAC defensive star James Houston, prepare for the next step in their football journeys. Coach Sanders responded quickly by saying "We've dealt with that issue already...I've been burning up the lines ... getting in touch with some of these senior games to get our kids, several of our kids, in these games." Despite Coach Prime's efforts, not many of his Jackson State University senior players are currently on all-star game rosters. The All-Star games most of America is familiar with is the long-standing Reese's Senior Bowl and The East-West Shrine Game. Of the two games, according to The NFL Draft Bible, zero Jackson State seniors appear on those rosters. It is worth noting that Celebration Bowl star and noted NFL Prospect, Decobie Durant of South Carolina State, who Coach Sanders mentioned in his post-game press conference, has accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game.
Senior Defensive Backs #9 Al Young and #3 CJ Holmes take the field for Celebration Bowl practice. Photo by Ernest Ricks
The next all-star game tracked by The NFL Draft Bible is the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which began in 2012 and is currently in a contract to air on the NFL Network through 2024. Two Jackson State players James Houston, who led the SWAC in sacks this season with 16.5 sacks, and 6'1 185 Senior cornerback CJ Holmes, have accepted invitations to play in that game. While this is well deserved and incredible news for those players, Coach Deion Sanders seemed to be most frustrated at his inability to place more of his other talented players in all-stars games that were created to showcase HBCU talent. Coach Prime did not go so far as to specifically name any bowl games or senior all-star game.
Coach Deion Sanders talks about his frustration with placing his seniors in all-star games.
The HBCU Legacy Bowl was a bowl game created with the sole purpose of bringing attention to some of the most talented draft-eligible players coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The game which will also air on NFL Network, is gaining a lot of traction and a ton of support from the NFL and very notable current NFL players, like Aaron Donald, Patrick Mahomes, and Jameis Winston. The game currently has one Jackson State University senior football players on its roster, Keonte Hampton. While school like Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Prairie View A&M, Alcorn, NC Central, and Norfolk State have multiple players on the roster, it doesn't seem uncommon for an all-star game to select only one player from a school. Other schools with only one player currently on the roster include, Florida A&M, Alabama A&M, Mississippi Valley State, Southern, Texas Southern, Delaware, Howard, and the Celebration Bowl champions South Carolina State Bulldogs.
Coach Sanders said, "I'm just dumb founded that we have a game...we have a HBCU game, right? and I haven't gotten a call about the team who won the SWAC."
Coach Buddy Pough talks about his game plan to avoid #10 All-SWAC Punt Returner Warren Newman. Photo by Ernest Ricks
Of the Jackson State seniors, outside of the three that have made All-Star game rosters, there is still some remarkable talent. As South Carolina State Head Football Coach Buddy Pough mentioned in his post-game press conference, one of the defining points of their Celebration Bowl winning game plan was to keep the ball away from #10. Coach Pough went so far as to call the punter the player of the game for managing to severely minimize his impact on the game. Coach Pough said "The punter was the MVP of this game without a doubt...23 and 10 are studs...both of those guys are big time players. They scared the life out of me, so I was trying to figure out how to keep both those guys from beating us... by themselves." The name of one of those scary players, #10, is Warren Newman. Warren Newman is a New Orleans native, so when the HBCU Legacy Bowl kicks off, scheduled to be played in New Orleans, it will be played in his hometown. Newman was named an All-SWAC Punt Returner and led the SWAC in punt return yards this season. At 5'8, 175 pounds, Newman is explosive with the ball in his hands and he put that on full display this season. Newman most evidently put his skill set on display on an 81-yard punt return against Tennessee State.
Wide Receiver Keith Corbin III, the player that drew first blood with the first receiving touchdown of the Celebration Bowl, is another example of a talented Jackson State senior, currently not on an all-star game roster. Corbin led the Tigers in receiving yards this season with 921 yards, and also contributed 7 touchdowns. However, despite the production of these two players neither currently appear on these notable Senior All-Star Game rosters. Coach Sanders went on to say, " I would like to see some of our players play in our game. See that's the bull junk I'm talking about. How in the world can you win the SWAC, and nobody calls me to invite our players that can play... that can flat out play?"
Currently, a significant number of SWAC and MEAC players have accepted invitations to play in the HBCU Legacy Bowl, according to the Legacy Bowl roster on their website and Instagram page, including SC State receiver, Will Vereen. The Legacy Bowl roster may not be fully set either, as they have been releasing roster news, piece by piece daily on their social media sites as anticipation grows around the inaugural game. It could be only a matter of time before Coach Prime's seniors are place on more of these all-star game rosters. According to him, he is burning up the lines in an effort to get his players in these games. With the amount of influence Coach Prime still has in the NFL, and the number of talented players he has firsthand knowledge of, it is almost a certainty that the number of his seniors on all-star game rosters will increase in the coming days.