MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Deion Sanders and the Jackson State University football team touched down in South Florida Thursday night before their HBCU exhibition game.
For a few days, the team will have a respite from the current water crisis affecting their hometown in Mississippi. But they are very aware of what the people of Jackson are going through.
The team is hoping Sunday’s Orange Blossom Classic against Florida A&M at Hard Rock Stadium will provide some relief, or at least boost morale. The game will air on ESPN2 at 3 p.m.
“We just hope we can afford to give people an outlet for a period of time … so they can get their minds off the real issues at hand,” said Sanders, the second-year coach at Jackson State, during a press conference. Friday conference. “It’s a tremendous burden, but it’s much bigger than football.”
President Joe Biden and state Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency this week in the Mississippi capital.
Excessive rain and flooding caused water pumps and already weakened infrastructure at one of Jackson’s largest water treatment facilities to fail, leaving many people under a boil water advisory.
“Nobody complains. Nobody is freaking out,” Sanders said Friday. “They may feel uncomfortable because they want information. The governor, our mayor are doing a phenomenal job, to me, of supporting that. But all they (the people of Jackson) want is hope and desire.
“And guess what? The Jackson State University football team gave them that. And we plan to give them that.”
Sanders said the Jackson State administration helped place football players living on campus in off-campus hotels earlier this week when classes moved online.
After Sunday’s game, the team will return home with the water crisis still a concern. Arrangements will be made for players and staff upon arrival.
“We are in the water swimming with everyone else. We can’t throw away our life jacket because we need it ourselves,” Sanders said. “We are going to make sure that we are well and, consequently, we will help others.”
It’s still football season and Jackson State has another game, the Southern Heritage Classic, against Tennessee State in Memphis on September 10.
“What we are trying to do is focus on dominating a football game. Before we start handing out water, clapping hands, kissing babies and hugging moms, we need to focus on dominating and winning a football game,” Sanders said. “We have our priorities and we have them set and in order accordingly.”
Sanders, 55, was hired at Jackson State in 2020. The Hall of Famer has led his football team through the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic snowstorm in February 2021 and now the current crisis. of the water.
He credited the people who live in the city of Jackson for being as strong as they have been through it all.
“Jackson, Mississippi is resilient,” Sanders said. “We have some people in that city who are holding on, and all they want is a little bit of hope. Let them reach their peak and see a little light that they will achieve the next day. And I promise you they will be there.”
Sanders described how he has seen the community come together to help, love and listen to one another in times of crisis.
“The Bible says that God uses foolish things to confuse the wise. And if it has to be some silly water issue for us to come together, then honey, I’m all for it.
“Because Jackson, Mississippi is all of that. And I love it.”