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Friends with Nick Saban, Deion Sanders wants something Saban has: A coaching tree

Jackson State's coach, Sanders wants to help grow his assistants into larger roles

Deion Sanders has his first full-season Jackson State squad playing in today's Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship opposite Prairie View A&M, with a sellout-crowd again expected just two after Sanders' squad drew more than 60,000 fans to witness its win against rival Alcorn State.

Now, Sanders also has an entirely new piece of hardware to go along with his Pro Football Hall of Fame career: SWAC Coach of the Year honors.

Those elements, coupled with Sanders' friendship with Nick Saban that formed after the two filmed some Aflac commercials together, are shaping Sanders' mindset with his assistant coaches.

Specifically, Sanders wants to see some of his assistant coaches grow their careers – and now.

“Yes, that's what we're grooming them for,” said Sanders, who interviewed last month for the head coaching job at TCU, of pushing his coaches for bigger roles and opportunities. “They sit in my office all the time.

“I don't want to hold them back. I don't have no chain around their neck. I want them to soar.”

In fact, especially with the backdrop of Sanders' friendship with Saban, the former Florida State All-American and Major League Baseball veteran wants to mimic Saban's success on and off the field.

“I want a (coaching) tree,” Sanders said this week. “Everybody else got a tree, I want a tree.

“Shoot man, I'm not talking about no regular tree either, I want a tree.”

Saban's coaching tree is notoriously lengthy, though thus far only former assistant and current Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has won a national title and only Georgia coach Kirby Smart has shown signs of perhaps being capable of sustaining Saban's year-after-year success.

Saban and Smart will see their Alabama and Georgia teams meet inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium today at 4, same time Sanders' Jackson State Tigers will be vying for that program's first SWAC title since 2007 and a first-ever appearance in the Celebration Bowl.