For Jackson State football's TC Taylor, 'dream job' brings pressure with Deion Sanders gone | Keith

The honeymoon is over, and this is where the rubber meets the road.

It is always nice when the homeboy, in this case Jackson State football coach T.C. Taylor, gets his shot. Taylor has persevered and served an apprenticeship under several mentors, most notably Deion Sanders.

Sanders left after three seasons for a more lucrative job at Colorado.

Taylor is JSU's 22nd coach, and there is pressure on him instantly because recent history suggests the fanbase and athletics director Ashley Robinson won't wait longer than a few seasons to see whether he can keep the program moving in a championship direction — which means competing for SWAC titles in pursuit of the Celebration Bowl.

"This is my dream job," Taylor told the Clarion Ledger after being hired. "It means everything to me and my family. From coming here when I was a little kid, to playing here, and now I am the head coach at JSU."

Popular hires and alumni have come back to lead the JSU program only to be dismissed. James Bell (8-23) was coach from 2003-05 and was given three seasons. Former NFL player and JSU alum Harold Jackson coached the Tigers from 2014-15 and went 6-11. Tony Hughes followed Jackson in 2016-18 and went 9-20, and John Hendrick was in charge from 2018-20 right before Sanders was hired and went 6-9. None of the coaches were .500 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (24-41).

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Maybe it is good Taylor had to wait to follow Sanders, because he was able to watch the playbook on how to coach, recruit and win in the SWAC. Taylor is going to have to show himself a fast study if the Tigers are to return to the SWAC Championship Game and have a shot at the Celebration Bowl.

Taylor knows this may be his only shot. He also knows a dream can become a nightmare if not handled correctly. Robinson is all about doing things the right way − and winning.

The JSU fans are loyal and also expect a winner. The team suffered until Sanders became coach and went 27-6 overall in three seasons, with an impressive 19-2 record in the SWAC. Prior to that, the only winning seasons came from Rick Comegy, who was the coach from 2006-13 and went 55-35 overall and 49-19 in SWAC. Bell, Jackson, Hughes and Hendrick went a combined 29-63 overall and 24-41 in SWAC.

For Taylor, this is the biggest offseason of his life. Everything will depend on the coaching staff he assembled, and his first recruiting class.

"One of the first differences between me and Coach Prime, is I am not Coach, Prime," said Taylor.

No one expects him to be, but he will be judged on his record on the field.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Can Jackson State's T.C. Taylor win in 'dream job' sans Deion Sanders?