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Lessons beyond the playing field are just as important to Deion Sanders as Jackson State winning games

Last week, it was talking with Instagram model Brittany Renner; this week, it’s advice on personal grooming

The goal for Jackson State coach Deion Sanders has always been about more than winning football games.

It’s about teaching his players about life.

Earlier this season, Sanders’ friend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan donated suits to Jackson State’s program. Sanders provided each player with a box of ties from his collection at TwentyDollarTie.

It was all part of showing the players that it’s cool to dress for success.

Sometimes, teaching his players about life means giving them pointers on how to conduct themselves at a job interview.

When he arrived at JSU, Sanders hired LaToya Williams as director of football operations and Lauren Askevold as his assistant athletic trainer because he wanted women to hold high-profile jobs in his program.

Other times, it means inviting Instagram model Brittany Renner to talk to his team about relationships.

In 2018, Renner, who has 4.6 million followers on Instagram, said athletes were really dumb and women can get paid by having children with them.

Sanders asked Renner to discuss dating in a world of direct messages and social media, so last week he brought her in to address the players.

“It’s my responsibility as a coach to prepare my young men for any and everything on the field and off,” Sanders said in an Instagram post. “I brought in @bundleofbrittany to educate them on how the game is played between man and woman at their age and stage. The message may not be for everybody but trust me it’s for somebody.”

Linebacker Keonte Hampton said the conversation with Renner supported what he had been taught at home.

“I had heard a lot of that stuff before about relationships from my dad,” said Hampton, “but it was good to hear it again and have it reinforced.”

Then there are Sanders’ discussions about personal hygiene, ranging from manicures and pedicures to shaving.

Yes, shaving. Don’t laugh.

Learning to shave is a big deal in the African American community because if it’s not done properly, it can wreak havoc on a young man’s face.

So, who taught Sanders how to shave?

“Me, through trial and tribulation,” he said Tuesday in an interview to promote his new Gillette razor. “That’s why this relationship is vital to teach our young men how to shave.

“We teach them about the face and how the hair comes out and curls back, and how you have to warm the face up so the hair can be extracted, and how not to get razor bumps, and how probably 95% of African American men shave with clippers, and that’s probably the worst thing you can use on your face.”

Senior Warren Newman said Sanders’ frequent talks about how to succeed in life have impacted him daily.

Everything, Newman said, they learn from Sanders is designed to help them after they leave Jackson State.

“He tells us to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity because you never know when your time is coming,” Newman said. “He doesn’t allow us to come to meetings late, because if you show up for a meeting at your job late the boss doesn’t want to hear that.”

For Hampton, Sanders has taught him to create a daily ritual because it provides clarity and organization for the day.

“I used to play a lot of video games and stuff,” said Hampton, “but now I’m doing other things because I’ve got a routine and it keeps me going strong.

“It’s little things like walking my dog at 5:30 a.m. It’s the consistency of doing it that’s important.”

Sanders’ personally designed razor is free to those who visit GillettexDeion.com Dec. 7-20 to enter for a chance to win one of 200 razors being given away.

“We’re trying to teach these youngsters to become men and put away some of the childish things we held on for too long,” Sanders said. “To teach them the life lessons that I wasn’t taught is vital to me because we’re trying to raise men and professionals — not just professional football players, but professionals.

“Everything God has called me to touch, I need to advance. I need to promote. I need to make sure it goes to a next level, and that’s who I’ve always been. That’s my calling in life. I would be a fool to harness all the gifts I’ve been given.”

There’s no better feeling for Sanders than when a player gets it.

“It’s joy. It’s appreciation. It’s like a touchdown. A home run. A 3-pointer. A game-winning play,” Sanders said. “It’s satisfaction, but there’s not a finality to it because you want to make sure [there’s] consistency to it. You want to make sure they’re consistent with what they’ve got.”

The Tigers (11-1), the Southwestern Athletic Conference champs, will be heading to Atlanta to play in the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18 against South Carolina State, winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

“I went in the training room yesterday and told them before we get on this plane, I need hair, nails and feet done,” Sanders said, “because I’m going to stand at the steps of that plane and make sure we’re tight — and they know Coach ain’t playing.”

Jean-Jacques Taylor, a native of Dallas, is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for 25 years and is president of JJT Media Group.