Deion Sanders' impact on Jackson State, and HBCU football at large, reached a new level on Wednesday as the nation's No. 1-ranked recruit, Travis Hunter, signed with the Tigers.
Hunter, who plays the same cornerback position at which Sanders excelled, spurned Florida State, where Sanders was a two-time consensus All-American. In the wild world of college football recruiting, it was a monumental stunner of an upset for a talent of Hunter's caliber to pass on the resources and exposure available at a Power Five program such as Florida State in favor of an HBCU.
"[Playing for FSU] is a dream that's 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," Hunter wrote in a statement. "Jerry Rice, Doug Williams, and of course the legend, JSU's own Walter Payton -- 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 is ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the country by Rivals.com. He played at Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill High, and drew scholarship offers from top programs such as Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. Also a talented wide receiver, Hunter intercepted four passes as a senior at Collins Hill and compiled 1,128 receiving yards. He had been verbally committed to the Seminoles and made an official visit to the FSU campus in September. Wednesday was the onset of the NCAA's early signing period for high school recruits. Earlier this month, JSU (11-1) defeated Prairie View A&M, 27-10, for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.
Sanders, a former NFL Network analyst, will complete his second season as JSU's coach in the Celebration Bowl on Saturday against South Carolina State. The Pro Football Hall of Famer and eight-time Pro Bowler has brought a new level of recognition to HBCU football in taking the Jackson State job, with attendance at the Jackson (Miss.) school spiking to an average of 42,293. The football program made a $30 million economic impact on Jackson (Miss.) this season, according to Visit Jackson.