That left Sanders with “mixed emotions,” after a lopsided victory against Edwards Waters, an NAIA program.
“For one, the kids played really well,” Sanders said, “but while the game was going on, someone came in and stole every darn thing I have in the coaches’ office. Credit cards, wallet, watches. Thank god I had on my necklaces.”
“How?!” he angrily exclaimed.
A subsequent clarification from the school, per reports, that Sanders’s belongings “were misplaced and have been found” did little to improve his mood.
“Whomever putting out the lie that my belongings wasn’t stolen is LYING,” Sanders tweeted. “My belongings were taken out of a zipped bag in my office and more items were taken as well from my office. We have retrieved them since being reported. My Staff member witnessed the crime. #Truth.”
After Sanders’s tweets Sunday evening, Jackson State Athletic Director Ashley Robinson addressed the situation, saying in a statement, “Immediately following our win today, several items belonging to Coach Prime were taken from the locker room. Those items were quickly recovered and returned.
“While we consider this an isolated incident,” the statement continued, “we are thoroughly reviewing security protocols to ensure this does not happen again. However, we refuse to let this dampen the victory for our JSU Tigers, who have worked hard for this moment.”
What turned into a 53-0 JSU win began on a happy note for Sanders, who got a surprise visit from former Dallas Cowboys teammate Troy Aikman at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. The pair shared a hug and chatted as players warmed up.
Sanders, 53, and Aikman won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in 1996, a year after Sanders won it all with the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to the pair of NFL titles, the cornerback nicknamed “Prime Time” won 1994 NFL defensive player of the year honors, and he earned eight Pro Bowl nods over a 14-year career.
Sanders then worked as an NFL analyst, among other media appearances, before spending the past several years helping coach high school players in Texas. At an introductory news conference in September, he said that “God called me to Jackson State.”
His head coaching debut had to wait, however, until February, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement of fall sports. In January, Sanders revealed that his truck was broken into, with a boombox stolen, but he quickly got it back following an appeal for the return of an item with great “sentimental value.”
“If we can come together over a darn boombox I know we can come together for issues like senseless murders, kidnapping, Financial literacy, education, Teenage pregnancy, family breakdown, drugs & alcohol abuse and crime!” Sanders wrote on social media at the time. “We can do this Jackson Mississippi and EVERYWHERE ELSE! I love y’all and y’all proved me right. I bet on y’all and y’all came thru.”
On Sunday, Sanders was in a less happy fame of mind.
“When I talked about quality and raising standards, that goes for everyone — not just the people on the field, not just the coaches, and not just the teachers, not just the faculty, but everybody — security, and everybody,” he said at his news conference.
“So how do you think I feel, coming back, after just teary-eyed because the guys presented me with the game ball,” Sanders continued. “One of the best moments I ever had in my professional sports career, emotionally, and then you go into your coach’s room and you don’t even have a phone to call your mama, to call your girl, to call your kids, because it’s been stolen.”
In an Instagram post later that evening, however, Sanders included a clip of him smiling widely at the news conference, as part of a montage celebrating the win.
“Please believe me,” he wrote, “when I tell u I LOVE THESE KIDS, THIS CITY AND THIS CALLING.”