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Shedeur Sanders is ready to step out of dad Deion’s shadow and into the spotlight

‘I was born with pressure … it’s normal to me. I don’t even think about that type of stuff.’

JACKSON, Miss. – Shedeur Sanders, the highest-rated recruit to sign with Jackson State, makes his college debut Sunday against Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic.

Oh, he also signed an endorsement deal with Beats by Dre this week.

Still, the moment shouldn’t be too big for the young man nicknamed “Grown” by his daddy, Jackson State coach Deion Sanders.

“They started calling me that because I was always mature for my age and I was always hanging [with] older people,” Sanders told The Undefeated. “I was just kind of responsible.”

These days, Sanders is responsible for helping Jackson State become an elite football program, showing five- and four-star high school football players that historically Black universities are viable routes to the NFL and making his father successful in his first college coaching job.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a true freshman, but as a member of the Sanders family, he will tell you he was built for these moments.

Perceived pressure and expectations, he said, have no effect on him. It’s about preparation and performance.

Everything else is irrelevant. It’s the way his father raised him.

“I was born with pressure. It wasn’t the same pressure [my dad] had growing up,” he said. “I just live. It’s normal to me. I don’t even think about that type of stuff. I’m just living.”

Deion Sanders, one of the best football players in NFL history, has always attracted controversy because he was a great player who let folks know he was great.

You can do that when you’re the only person in the world to play in the World Series and an NFL game in the same week. He’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and also hit .263 in nine MLB seasons.

“We don’t major on the minor. We focus on the major. What are we majoring in? Dominance. What we majoring in? Being prepared. “

Deion Sanders

The cameras have always followed Deion Sanders, whether they were chronicling his athletic feats or his ventures into reality TV. He’s taught his sons, Shedeur, and Shilo, a safety now at Jackson State, to embrace the attention.

“You can’t grow up in a 40,000-square-foot house and not know how to handle hate,” Deion Sanders said. “Please, we know how to deal with that because his father has dealt with that his whole entire life.

“We don’t major on the minor. We focus on the major. What are we majoring in? Dominance. What we majoring in? Being prepared. The only way to be confident is we’re prepared and we work our butts off to reach this moment, and when we reach this moment, why would we be afraid of it.

“That young man right there, has a gift, and I cannot wait for the world to see.”

Shedeur Sanders, ranked 61st on the ESPN 300 board, was the 12th-rated quarterback in the country. He passed for 3,702 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior at Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas.

Sanders, who had 25 scholarship offers, initially committed to Florida Atlantic and former Florida State coach Willie Taggart before opting to join his father at Jackson State.

“He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s fast – not just foot speed, but to analyze and read a defense and make the proper read,” Deion Sanders said. “He’s a disciplined young man and his teammates really respect the work that he puts in off the field, which translates on the field.”

Jalon Jones and Quincy Casey, Jackson State’s quarterbacks during the spring season, combined for 1,481 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions as the Tigers went 4-3, including a forfeit win, after a 3-0 start.

Each has transferred to other schools.

Understand, Sanders isn’t the kind of quarterback who’s going to create havoc with his legs. He wins with his mind.

Over the years, he’s worked out with top NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady. He has a high football IQ and Jackson State offensive coordinator Jason Phillips is giving him considerable responsibility.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman (left) confers with Shedeur Sanders (right), son of Jackson State coach and former Dallas Cowboy teammate of Aikman, Deion Sanders, before an NCAA college football game against Edward Waters in Jackson, Mississippi, on Feb. 21.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

“It was hard not to play in the spring, but at the same time it was good to get a feel for the speed of the game and a little bit of the college atmosphere,” Sanders said. “I felt like I was able to grow a lot by sitting down and watching and expanding the way I think about plays and coverages.”

Sanders has earned Phillips’ trust, so the playcaller is giving him a lot of responsibility to get Jackson State into good plays and out of poor ones.

Sanders’ understanding of the offense will allow Jackson State to expand offensively.

“One of the things we’ve done this week is allow him to tell us what passes he wants in certain situations that will come up this week,” Phillips said. “As talented as he is and as much football as he knows, you still have to remember this kid is still a freshman.”

While there’s pressure being the quarterback at Jackson State, where alums obsessed with their glorious past can have a hard time finding perspective, it’s nothing compared to growing up in a household where your father is one of the best players in NFL history.

Sanders, though, has never hidden from his father’s spotlight. He wants to be his own man.

That’s why he refused to back down from the comments he made at the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) media day about Jackson State not being an ordinary SWAC team because of its nine SEC transfers and a recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 among FCS schools.

He wears No. 2, the number his father made famous at Florida State, because he’s the second son, his birthday is in February and he was born in 2002.

“As long as you do your job, you don’t even have to worry about the rest of the stuff,” Shedeur Sanders said. “Do what you came here to do because, honestly, anywhere you would’ve gone, you would’ve had to produce on the field.”

Spoken like a grown man.

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.