Jackson State interim coach Gary Harrell is sticking to head coach Deion Sanders' formula as the nationally ranked Tigers continue their 2021 coming-out-party, and so Sanders, per Harrell, is able to “take his time coming back into the fold” from a significant medical condition.
Sanders is entering his second week not being able to coach his first full Jackson State squad due to medical orders.
The No. 16 Tigers (6-1) travel to rival Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
It's been five weeks since Sanders' September 22 surgery to repair a chronic condition in his left foot/toes from his long-running NFL and Major League Baseball careers.
At the time of Sanders' initial surgical procedure last month, Sanders had sports medicine specialist Dr. James Hurt explain that Sanders would have an "old deformity, a claw toe repaired, as well as a second toe that was (perpetually) dislocated" by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lori Reed.
Last week, Sanders revealed that doctors had ordered him not to coach his Tigers' team in its eventual win against Bethune-Cookman, and Sanders had continued to use a mobile scooter to get around the practice field and sidelines on gamedays prior to his restriction.
“Coach Gary Harrell, my right hand, will be leading our team,” Sanders said last week on social media, indicating he was following the orders of his “team of doctors,” “and carrying out our mission to win all four quarters and play smart, tough, fast and disciplined.”
Though Sanders indicated last week that he would be out for the game against Bethune-Cookman, he was unable to make his scheduled weekly appearance Monday on the Southwestern Athletic Conference's weekly coaches' video press conference.
Though not overly common, blood clots are one potential problem from foot surgery, according to multiple medical journals. The Fraser Orthopaedic Institute (British Columbia) notes that Deep Vein Thrombosis can be a more significant residual issue from ankle/foot surgery:
"DVT (deep vein thrombosis) This is a blood clot in the lower leg veins. It is relatively uncommon but can be a serious complication of foot surgery. Symptoms can include swelling and pain. Most blood clots do not cause significant or life threatening problems. Occasionally large blood clots can cause a condition called post thrombotic syndrome, which is a chronic swelling of the leg."
Harrell emphasized the Tigers are sticking to Sanders' program model and wanting to provide peace of mind for Sanders to miss as much time as medically necessary.
“Being able to step away and trust his staff that when he does step away, that everything stays the same and stays consistent,” Harrell said of the JSU staff's approach in Sanders' absence. “I think it helps him out as far as being able to relax and take his time as far as coming back into the fold.
“We feel good about where we are right now.”
As noted, Harrell filled in for Sanders this week on the SWAC's weekly head coaches' video conference and has assumed all day-to-day operations of the program during Sanders' absenc
Harrell went on to praise the composition of Sanders' inaugural staff, noting the Tigers are able to lean on T.C. Taylor, Dennis Thurman and Kevin Mathis, among others.
“We have a great staff that's consistent, we have a great staff that's committed and when you got someone like T.C. that's been a part of Jackson State for a long time, you lean on him to get some feedback, to get some insight,” said Harrell, who logged five years as head coach at Howard University. “And you got veteran guys like Dennis Thurman, who's very solid on defense. Some of these guys been around Coach Prime for a long time. You're talking about Coach (Andre) Hart, Coach Mathis, so they know him. I've known Coach Prime maybe two years but I work with him on a daily basis when it comes to the schedule, when it comes to how he sees things. We know what he wants, and we know when things are out of place, how he's going to react.
“So we're trying to make sure that when we come in day to day, that we first start there to make sure that nothing gets changed, that we don't deviate from the plan, from the blueprint, and just follow our day-to-day grind. Just stay prayed up, stay faithful, stick together as a family and understand the foundation is laid and we're having success. Just getting kids to believe, believe in what we're doing and play hard.”
With Sanders' absence indefinite many within the profession are praying for a quick and full recovery for Coach Prime.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.