By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on December 4, 2022
Coach Deion Sanders, thank you for your inspirational public service to Jackson State University (JSU) as its head football coach during the past three football seasons. You showed historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) what they can achieve if they are willing to focus on attaining greatness in their mission.
What is more, you accomplished this feat at one of the most underfunded HBCUs in America, which happens to be located in one of the nation's poorest cities and states. Never has any modern-day football coach in America accomplished so much, with so few resources, for so many people.
Vince Lombardi's Quotes Defined "Greatness" in Football and in Life
Legendary Green Bay Packers head football coach Vince Lombardi was famous for these motivational quotes listed below. They define "greatness" in football and in life:
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.”
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while… you don’t do things right once in a while… you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?”
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
You Embody Bold Leadership and Greatness
Coach Sanders, you embody all of the attitudes and attributes found in Vince Lombardi's quotes. This is why you are a bold and great leader, on and off the football field.
As I stated in my October 22, 2022 Open Letter to you, your work at JSU and your 60 Minutes interview changed the landscape of HBCU sports, forever.
The last HBCU head football coach who received this kind of national recognition and who positively impacted a sports program at a HBCU at this level was Eddie Robinson, Gambling State University's legendary football coach (1941-42 and 1945-97). (Robinson is not related to ASU's current coach, Eddie Robinson, Jr.)
By all objective standards of measurement, Coach Robinson was a great man, a great head football coach, and a great ambassador of goodwill for Grambling. You are a modern-day version of Grambling's Eddie Robinson.
Robinson never had the opportunity to progress to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (or Division I-A level) as a head football coach. You did, and you rightfully seized it.
You have reached the top of the world of athletics, as a college athlete, a professional athlete, and a head football coach at a Football Championship Subdivision university. All along the way, you performed in an outstanding manner and did whatever was necessary and proper to attain excellence in each of these endeavors.
You radiate the confidence and standard of excellence that HBCUs desperately needed in their head football coaches. If any head football coach wants respect for his university, his football program, and himself, he needs to work hard and smart enough to win all of his team's games on the playing field. He and his team must view every game as a milestone on the road to excellence and dominance in his sport.
America owes you a debt of gratitude for what you did for JSU and HBCU sports. Your efforts were sincere, productive, and inspirational for all HBCUs. You were successful in erasing the badge of inferiority that has plagued all HBCUs for far too long.
You are on a mission from God to change young lives, and it is working.
You have showed HBCUs what their sports programs can achieve if they truly want, demand, and pursue greatness. Too often, HBCUs complain about a lack of resources, when the real problem is a lack of heart, grit, and determination to be Number One in the competitive zones of academics, sports, and business.
Ignore Your Haters
As you know, there are a lot of blacks who resented your success at JSU. They are now celebrating your departure from JSU. I call these people, “haters.” They have always been among us. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., found a multitude of them in Alabama, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the nation. In 1958, one of them nearly stabbed Dr. King to death in Harlem. Eddie Robinson encountered plenty of "haters" in connection with his work at Grambling.
No one who has achieved as much success in the world of sports as you have enjoyed is hating on you. In fact, they respect your impressive body of accomplishments.
As a people, we must stop hating on those blacks who choose to live their lives free of a self-imposed inferiority complex. We should celebrate the fact that there is a growing number of blacks among us who are not languishing in a permanent state of psychological castration and mental slavery.
Any HBCU can wallow in mediocrity. Most do. However, very few HBCUs have been willing to do what it takes to advance their institutions to the forefront of nationwide competition for all colleges and universities. JSU is one of them. I expect JSU will continue along this path.
I wish you nothing but success at the University of Colorado. They are lucky to have you and your many talents.
Donald V. Watkins
December 4, 2022