Deion Sanders talks Jackson State, impact of new Super Bowl commercial, HBCUs

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay will run three Super Bowl commercials on Sunday and one will feature Peyton and Eli Manning, Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders. Sanders is particularly excited for this national ad because of the attention he hopes it will bring to his new home: Jackson State. 

Sanders was announced as the 21st coach of the Jackson State football team last September.

“Frito-Lay is doing a wonderful job helping us,” Sanders told USA TODAY Sports. “Just the notoriety, to see a Jackson State head coach on a national commercial, its huge for us. It’s huge for HBCUs.”

The Pro Football Hall of Famer replaced John Hendrick when JSU decided to part ways with the coach in late August, who's contract was set to expire in December.

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After the Southwestern Athletic Conference decided to push all of its fall sports to the spring, that opened the door for JSU to go a different direction with the leadership for its football program.  

Sanders' tenure as the coach officially started on Dec. 1, and the team arrived to campus shortly after the new year.

“I’m feeling really good,” Sanders said. “They’re awesome. These kids are committed. They are playing smart, fast, tough and with discipline. Those are the attributes we try to employ in these kids, and I cannot wait. I have a great coaching staff. We have a great recruiting class. I’m excited not only about this (Super Bowl) commercial, but I’m excited about this season and this spring. I am excited about life.” 

Sanders believes the exposure the Super Bowl commercial will bring is just one piece of the puzzle. His school still needs more resources and funding to get players where they want to go. 

“When you have a team of 100 kids," Sanders said, "100 young men that have a goal, and a hunger, and thirst and a want and desire to go to the next level professionally, and you don’t have the equipment, supplies, you don’t have the field. When you got to bus 100 kids to an adjacent field probably 10 to 15 minutes away because at the brink, or thought, of rain, it floods out, and you can’t practice on there, and then it’s a safety hazard with the drainage as well, that’s not good.

"And the meeting rooms. You got to walk 400 yards to even have a meeting with the entirety of your team. The playing field is certainly not leveled. And I think we can do a better job of leveling that to give these kids a real decision, a real choice whether they want to go here or there.”

There are significant financial disparities between HBCUs and predominantly white institutes and athletics programs at HBCUs are not exempt from this lack of funding.

Schools must combat the overwhelming struggle to recruit and capitalize on Black athletic talent that has the power to bring exposure, revenue and more financial support. In 2020, HBCUs saw a decline in enrollment and endowments in both the private and public sector. 

On the recruiting trail, Sanders says he doesn’t complain about the lack of resources he has. 

“We make the best of things,” Sanders said. “Certainly there is a lack thereof and we can’t compete in the aesthetics with the Power 5s, but I can give you the same experience.”

Sanders says his overall goal this season is to win, but also, he hopes to guide his players to be professionals, not just in football but in life. 

“We want to win on and off the field,” he said. “We want to make sure the murder and crime rate is lessened because of our prominence. We want to make sure these kids are graduating. We want to make sure these kids are matriculating into wonderful jobs and wonderful careers and they are real difference makers amongst the community. We want to provoke change in every aspect. Teenage pregnancies should lessen. Financial literacy, family breakdowns. We want to be a conduit to promote all of that. We want to promote change in all aspects of life, especially here in Jackson, Mississippi.”

Although Sanders is elated for his spot in a national Super Bowl ad, he is laser-focused on the start of the season. 

“Maybe I’ll have a Super Bowl party with my team," he said. "I’m a head coach. I got to take care of the kids. I haven’t even planned it yet because we’ve been practicing. We play on February 21. That’s where my focus right now is.”

Contact Analis Bailey at or on Twitter @analisbailey.