Deion Sanders shuts down rumors Jackson State paid top recruit Travis Hunter

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Jackson State University football head coach Deion Sanders dispelled rumors on Thursday that someone is paying the Mississippi-based HBCU’s highly coveted high school recruit Travis Hunter a lot of money to play there instead of a traditional Power Five conference program.

“There’s a lot of flack from the old guard about [name, image and likeness deals] and, ‘Just pay ’em any amounts of money,’” ESPN host Jay Williams said on Thursday while interviewing Sanders on the sports network’s Keyshawn, JWill & Max show.

“We ain’t got no money!” Sanders interrupted.”I heard it was a million and a half…. That’s the biggest lie I ever heard. You know what that is? That means we kicked your butt. We took what was ours. And now you gotta make up an excuse why.”

Hunter is the five-star cornerback from Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Georgia who was also the #2 overall high school prospect in the nation this year, according to ESPN.

The 18-year-old stunned the sports world during his press conference on Wednesday when he announced plans to sign with Jackson State instead of honoring his verbal commitment to play for Sanders’ Florida State alma mater.

Detractors have speculated that someone in Sanders’ camp offered Hunter a huge payout, capitalizing on an NCAA rule change made earlier this year that allows players to profit off their name, image, and likeness (N.I.L.) for the first time ever, in exchange for his extraordinary commitment to an HBCU.

Sanders signed a podcast deal with Barstool Sports, a digital media company, in August of 2020. A parody account on Wednesday tweeted that Barstool was paying Hunter $1.5 million to attend JSU.

An anonymous source from Jackson State told the Clarion Ledger the Barstool rumor is bogus. During his interview on Thursday, Sanders pointed out that Jackson State is only paying him $1.2 million over four years to lead the team, and his son, Shilo Sanders, transferred from South Carolina to Jackson state a year ago.

“I wouldn’t pay my son a million and a half,” Sanders said. “How I’m gonna coach and you guys making more than me?”

Sanders also pushed back on criticism that Hunter and other prominent recruits won’t get the same national media exposure playing for an HBCU as they would a more traditional big-time college football program.

“We’re shooting a documentary with Barstool and that airs, I think, going into next season,” he said. “We already did year one. But the exposure is crazy. We’ve played on television, I think, every game but one. Shoot, you’ve gotta be crazy if you don’t know about Jackson State right now.”

The 54-year-old coach also suggested other football programs may have said or done something that turned off Hunter’s mother during the recruiting process.

“I just think a lot of people approached it wrong to mama,” he said. “They went wrong. They went sideways. And you know once you mess it up with mama, it’s a wrap.”

Sanders played the same position as Hunter during his hall-of-fame football career. Many in the sports world believe Sanders, nicknamed “Primetime,” is the greatest of all time at his position. That may have played a role in Hunter’s prior verbal commitment to attend Florida State, the school that helped make Sanders a star before turning pro.

“Florida State has always been a beacon for me,” Hunter said via Twitter on Wednesday. “I grew up down there. That’s where my roots are I never doubted that I’d 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.”

Hunter also said the chance to play for an HBCU played a role in his decision.

“Historically black colleges and universities have a rich history in football,” he wrote. “I want to be part of that history, and more. I want to be part of that future.”

Story & Photo Credit: Chauncey Alcorn/thegrio