Last year, Jackson State coach Deion Sanders proved to naysayers that he could recruit against Power 5 programs.
Now, he’s taking that energy and putting it toward building a Power 5 coaching staff.
On Tuesday, Sanders added former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to his staff as an analyst.
Earlier this offseason, Sanders hired former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who coached tight ends in Florida last season. He also added assistant strength coach Maurice Sims from the University of Georgia to run that aspect of the JSU program.
“I’m not just trying to build an HBCU coaching staff,” Sanders said. “I’m trying to build a Power 5 staff.”
Zimmer, fired by the Vikings after eight seasons, is still owed nearly $20 million, so it’s cheap.
Zimmer and Sanders have been friends for parts of four decades. They met when Sanders joined the Cowboys in 1995 and Zimmer was the secondary coach.
They clicked because Zimmer trained Sanders hard from the start, earning the All-Pro cornerback’s respect during his five seasons in Dallas.
They have maintained their relationship over the years and with Zimmer unemployed, it was a perfect fit.
“Zim is extremely knowledgeable,” Sanders said, “and he will be a great resource that can help push us to the next level.”
Zimmer will not be moving to Jackson, Mississippi, but he will help the staff in many ways with his experience and defensive knowledge.
“He’s asked me about it several times,” Zimmer said. pre-game show. “The pay isn’t great, but I love Deion and would do anything for him.”
Brewster as well, although he did not have a close relationship with Sanders before joining the staff.
They met several years ago when Brewster was recruiting players for Sanders at Trinity Christian High School in suburban Dallas.
Brewster was considering some options when Sanders contacted him to discuss the possibilities.
They met, their philosophies meshed, and Brewster joined the staff.
“He brings a lot of energy,” Sanders said, “and he can train himself to death.”
Sims worked with Brewster in North Carolina in 2019.
“He has a way of connecting with players that allows him to work hard and almost cross that line,” Brewster said, “without going overboard.”
Sanders wanted a strength coach who would challenge his players mentally and physically.
He wanted a strength coach that would allow them to dominate in the fourth quarter and late in the season, when their bodies are bruised and beaten.
“It’s not where I want it to be, but we’re getting there,” Sims said. “It takes 2-3 years to get to the point where you have a group that can tell freshmen why they need to listen to you.”
Sanders is also putting together a staff he can recruit.
Brewster is the man credited with bringing quarterback Vince Young to Texas and nearly helped persuade four-star tackle Miles McVay to pick Jackson State over Alabama last week.
The Tigers are involved in many recruiting battles for four and five star players.
He wants everything about the JSU program to say Power 5 because it helps with recruiting.
JSU greets recruits at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in a customized Mercedes Sprinter van. The renovated locker room (Sanders contributed $100,000 to its renovation) has a TV above each locker and looks like it belongs in the SEC.
The living room has a pool table, ping-pong table, foosball, and arcade games.
JSU has a practice table just for the players to eat, a rarity among programs at historically black colleges and universities, and a new training room.
Every edge matters.
Sanders and his staff continue to recruit some of the best players in the nation.
Imagine if they had a budget of over $1 million like most Power 5 schools. They are doing it on nickels and dimes.
But they did sign two ESPN 300 players last year, including second-ranked Travis Hunter Jr. and wide receiver Kevin Coleman Jr.
No one knows how long Sanders will be at JSU, and he tells anyone who will listen that he is so focused on today that he is not worried about tomorrow.
He has already been interviewed several times with Power 5 shows. If JSU lives up to the hype this season, he will have more interview opportunities.
His success at JSU should have many administrators wondering what he could do in a program with a lot more money considering the way he built a staff and hired them.
“We’re just a Power 5 coaching staff,” Sanders said, “picking up his mail in Jackson, Mississippi.”