Deion Sanders has been one of the flashiest names in sports for two generations, first as a two-sport superstar, and most recently as a college football coach. In Coach Prime, a four-episode miniseries streaming on Amazon Prime Video, we get a look at Sanders’ final season coaching at Jackson State before making the leap to FBS football.
COACH PRIME: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A montage of Sanders’ career highlights, both on and off the field, plays as bombastic, celebratory music plays, and Sanders himself narrates his mission to create something bigger than football at Jackson State. It’s pretty clear from the start this is an ad for Deion by Deion.
The Gist: When Deion Sanders took over as head football coach at Jackson State University in 2020, it made headlines–something Sanders has been long accustomed to doing. The only athlete in history to play in both a World Series and a Super Bowl taking over at a historically-black college and promising to compete for players with national powers was a bold move, but it paid off quickly. The Tigers went 27-6 in his three seasons in Jackson, and the final season is the focus of Coach Prime.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? It’s got shades of many slightly-too-cozy-with-their-subject sports documentaries, but at its best, it can remind you of HBO’s Hard Knocks with the behind-the-scenes looks at a football season in progress.
Our Take: Coach Prime is what one might describe in internet parlance as an “old take exposed”–that is, a confident statement rendered obsolete or outright incorrect by new information.
The series promises to follow Deion Sanders’ 2022 season at Jackson State University, where he took over as head coach in 2020 and quickly elevated the school’s national profile and recruiting prowess. Much of the first episode focuses on Sanders’ decision to coach at a historically-black college. For many decades, HBCUs were hotbeds of NFL talent, with extremely-talented Black players largely shut out from opportunities at blue-blood college football programs. In the past generation, that shifted, and the talent drain largely consigned HBCU football to second-tier status. Sanders speaks proudly of reversing that trend, of showing top players the benefits of playing at an HBCU and the fact that they can thrive there.
Of course, this all contrasts with Sanders’ hasty departure from Jackson State at the end of the season to take over as head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes–a moribund program in a very-white place that led many observers to conclude that he was willing to jump for any Power 5 job that would have him, lofty ideals be damned.
It’s tough to square these things while watching Coach Prime. It’s clear that Sanders did elevate the profile of Jackson State, bringing in not just recruits but facility and equipment upgrades. But for as passionate as Sanders sounds speaking of HBCU football, any college football fan can tell you: your program’s momentum is only as good as your next head coach. Much is made of Sanders’ historic signing of Travis Hunter, the first five-star, number-one-overall recruit to sign with an FCS program–but Hunter followed Sanders to Colorado as soon as the season ended. (Good for him, of course, but proof that Sanders’ impact can quickly fade.)
So what’s real? Does Sanders truly believe, or is it all an act?
There’s an interesting moment near the beginning of the first episode, regarding an upcoming interaction between Sanders and legendary Alabama football coach Nick Saban, and critical comments Saban made regarding Sanders’ recruitment of Hunter.
“A lot of people took the incident and ran with it, blew it out of proportion,” a subdued Sanders reflects, “I knew what he was trying to say. And you can’t judge a man by the thought process of a moment. He’s a good dude.” It’s a different angle on Sanders than the one we usually see on TV–low-key and reflective, but still carefully managing the narrative.
In the end, Coach Prime is just that — a deft piece of storytelling.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: The Tigers celebrate in the locker room after a 59-3 opening-game blowout of Florida A&M. We then cut to Sanders following news of the 2022 water crisis in Jackson on his phone on the bus, and jump to players pitching in to help deliver water to residents in need. Jackson needs more than it’s been getting, and not just in football.
Sleeper Star: Early on in the episode, Sanders invites a friend–former University of Miami and Canadian Football League practice-squad defensive tackle Dwayne Johnson–to a workout with players. He’s quite charming, and might have a future in movies.
(Okay, but seriously, the most endearing character is cornerback De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren, who speaks sincerely of buying into Sanders’ vision at Jackson State.)
Most Pilot-y Line: “All this is B.P. and A.P., you know what that means? Before Prime, and After Prime, let’s get that straight,” Sanders smiles, with his typical confidence. “That’s what it is, because now HBCUs are shooting for those five-stars, those four-stars, those three-stars that they never would have fathomed that they could get. They’re doing that now.”
Our Call: SKIP IT. Coach Prime is well-crafted, but in the end, it’s an ad for a movie that’s no longer in theaters.
Scott Hines is an architect, blogger and proficient internet user based in Louisville, Kentucky who publishes the widely-beloved Action Cookbook Newsletter.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Coach Prime’ on Prime Video, a Docuseries Following Deion Sanders’ Tenure As Football Coach at Jackson State appeared first on Decider.