Why Deion Sanders' Jackson State football team has practiced at a local high school

Rashad Milligan
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Jackson State first-year football coach Deion Sanders has had to improv during his early tenure with the Tigers.

Because of recent rain, and even snow, in Jackson, the Tigers have had to move football practices to different locations throughout the city, including twice at Forest Hill High School. The weather conditions have prevented JSU to use its own grass practice field.

"Forest Hill High School has been a tremendous blessing to our program," Sanders said. "Being able to practice during, and after, inclement weather has afforded our program a monumental advantage. We thank God for Forest Hill and JPS administrators for extending us this courtesy and welcoming us to their community."

Forest Hill football coach Jeremy Jones said there wasn't much flash at the closed practices. There weren't large camera crews or anything of that sort, either.

There was just football.

Jackson State football players set on the line during the first practice of the 2019 fall camp Saturday, Aug. 3.

"They looked pretty good, to be honest," Jones said. "Not only as far as talent goes, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Deion and all of his guys have only had his guys for a month, but they're already on one page."

The Forest Hill coach, who is heading into his fourth season and fifth year with the school after last season was canceled by the Jackson Public Schools District, has watched JSU teams of the past but said this current group is impressive. At practice, the players were constantly moving and listening to the staff. 

"There were no dead moments," Jones said. "It was a recipe for success."

He said he went out on the field to greet some members of the staff and was impressed by their high energy. Especially defensive line coach Jeff Weeks, who came off the bus running, according to Jones.

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"When you look at it, it's contagious," Jones said. "When players see coaches do it, it just runs downhill."

Jones, a Collins native who attended Belhaven University, said Sanders' willingness to practice at a Jackson Public School when necessary says a lot him and his program, and despite Jones' family having strong ties to in-state rival Alcorn State, JSU becoming a winning football team again is good for the entire state.

"We're all in this thing together," Jones said. "It's positive publicity. Even though it's a closed practice, we were able to help them out."

Jackson State is in Phase One of its latest athletic renovations around campus, which includes a turf practice field with an awning over it.

Earlier this month, Sanders told reporters at SWAC Media Days that he's already seen vast differences in Power 5 college programs compared to Jackson State and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He talked about differences in the training tables, uneven practice fields in addition to outdated helmets, pads and practice equipment.

"Some of the things that I've seen thus far early in my tenure are truly unacceptable," Sanders said. "It causes a kid not to dream. It causes a kid to not have that passion because he don't see no end result that's promising for him."

The Pro Football Hall of Famer said his goal is to improve the conditions at Jackson State and all HBCUs.

Contact Rashad Milligan at 601-862-6198 or Jmilligan@gannett.com. Follow @RashadMilligan on Twitter.