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Cricket Celebration Bowl - South Carolina State v Jackson State

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Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders has signed a NIL deal with Gatorade to become the sports drink’s first-ever HBCU athlete. 

Sanders, who is the son of Jackson State head football coach Deion Sanders, had one of the best seasons of any freshman quarterback in the country. The younger Sanders led Jackson State to a SWAC Championship title and an appearance in the Celebration Bowl which serves as the division one HBCU national championship.

He was also the first and only HBCU player to win the Jerry Rice Award for the best FCS Freshman player in the nation. 

Shedeur threw for 3.231 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions in his first season in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson State was regarded by many as the best HBCU football team in the nation this season until they got dominated by South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl on national television in December. 



Shedeur’s deal with Gatorade will be a part of a multi-year partnership that will look to give national exposure to HBCU athletes and their programs. The new HBCU star has already signed deals with Beats By Dre and Brady Brand. 

Companies have started to put an increased emphasis on promoting HBCUs and their talent. And with the shift of NIL in college sports, more HBCU athletes could be primed to make a splash in endorsement deals. 

The conversation around HBCU sports is starting to change by the day. And the impact of NIL deals like this from Gatorade and the announcements of top high school prospects like Travis Hunter going to HBCUs are playing a crucial part in changing the narrative for these young student-athletes. 

Jackson State will look to come back on a mission after losing to South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl and they’ll likely be the favorite in the SWAC once again. Schools like Florida A&M, Alcorn State, Southern, and others will be looking to dethrone the SWAC Champions next season. 

HBCU sports are in a very pivotal moment in time right now and they need increased attention and exposure from companies like Gatorade to transform the status quo. It’ll be interesting to see how more companies step up to the challenge of promoting HBCU athletics.