JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Imagine covering 58 players getting drafted to the NFL, and over a dozen to the NBA and the Major Leagues, that was just a small part of Sam Jefferson’s job as Jackson State’s first sports information director.
“When I came in in 1973, we have a guy on the football team named Walter Payton,” Jefferson said. “We had another guy on the football team named Robert Brazile. We had Jackie Slater and man we had several other players that went on to be outstanding professional careers. Man, I thought I was going to see that every year. I just didn’t realize the kind of talent that I was around at that time until they left. And then I realized, man those were some extraordinary people.”
“Then we had baseball players, Earl Sanders,
“Coach [W.C.] Gorden won like 28 straight conference games that was something in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. You never thought you would witness something like that you were in a conference like we were in with teams like Alcorn, Grambling, Southern. We went several years without losing a game in that conference. So, when you look back at that those are moments that you’ll never forget.”
“I was a student at Jackson State in 1968, we had 11 football players drafted in nineteen hundred sixty eight. For a number of years that was more than any other school in Mississippi.”
Today, things are a lot different, with only one HBCU player drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“In the 1960s, 1970s, and part of the 1980s things were different. We didn’t have as many people recruiting our athletes and when I say our athletes I mean the ones that went to HBCUs and other schools like we do now. Integration, especially the Division I schools in the state, when they started signing the top players in the top players regardless of what color they were out of high school then the pool of athletes available kind of started shrinking. The people that suffered the most were the smaller schools. If you were a DI athlete in any sport, the chances that you would go to a smaller division school was not as a good as you would go to a larger school where you’re on television every Saturday.”
Jefferson retired in 2002 after 29 years. It was a career that ended in the Jackson State Hall of Fame, the SWAC Hall of Fame.
“And the national Hall of Fame, COSIDA, which is the College Sports Information Directors Association. It means a lot to me because that puts you in the Hall of Fame with a nation of people that have done similar types of jobs that I did for 29 years.”
“It just didn’t seem like it was long. I never got into it to stay 29 years. I thought maybe 10 years, but one year led to another. By in large it was a nice trip. I got a chance to meet some exciting people, extremely good athletes, great coaches, so it was fun.”