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Citing Moby Dick, Deion Sanders challenges Jackson State players to find their roles

Sanders urges the Tigers to "Be whoever you are"

Hours before his second-edition Jackson State squad hit the practice field in steamy Mississippi heat that pushed into the mid-90s with the heat index, Deion Sanders delivered a simple but straightforward message to the Tigers: Be who you are.

Sanders’ theme was clear: The optimal Jackson State team in 2022 will have players committed to their roles; not seeking outsized, individual elements.

“This is real simple,” Sanders told his team in a pre-practice squad meeting. “Whoever you are, I need you to be just that. I don’t need a miracle, I don’t need you to be the second coming of nobody; I need you to be the first of whoever you are.”

Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who led JSU to a record-setting 11-win season in 2021, his first full autumn atop the program, then outlined specific traits that nonetheless would still allow players to carve roles for the Tigers – and potentially at a professional level.

“Example, if you’re a defensive lineman and you’re not really a pass-rusher, but you’re a run-stopper, I guarantee you there’s going to be a team out there that that’s what they do and they’re going to draft you,” he told the team. “If you’re a cornerback and you ain’t (made a tackle) since Moby Dick was a minnow but you can cover your butt off, I guarantee you somebody’s going to draft you. If you’re a back and you’re not a runner but you can catch the ball and move the chains on third, be that. If you’re a linebacker and you can’t stop the run but you can cover, I guarantee you somebody is going to see value in what you do.

“If you’re a deep threat and you don’t move chains but Lord you can stretch the heck out of that defense, somebody’s going to see value in you. Be that.”

Sanders didn’t only challenge his players to find and fill their roles; he likewise places the onus on his staff.

“But the key is, whoever you are, be that,” Sanders said. “I need you to identify yourself, locate yourself and find yourself. And coaches we’ve got to do a great job of finding them ourselves.

“We don’t need you to be all things. There’s not a lot of kids in here that are all things. Some of you are going to develop.”

The Tigers have 26 days of preseason development left before they open their 2022 campaign against SWAC rival Florida A&M in Miami at the Orange Blossom Classic.