The No. 1 high school football recruit in the country pulled a signing day shocker Wednesday, deciding to attend Jackson State and play for coach Deion Sanders after being verbally committed to Florida State for months.
Travis Hunter, a cornerback from Suwanee, Georgia, made the unprecedented announcement during a ceremony at Collins Hill High School. Hunter was the top prospect in the country in 247 Sports’ composite rankings, which take into account its own ratings plus those of other major recruiting websites.
Sanders is a former Florida State star and Pro Football Hall of Famer who is in his second year coaching Jackson State, a historically black college in Jackson, Mississippi.
At his signing ceremony, Hunter had three baseball caps on the table in front of him as he prepared to make his announcement: Florida State, Auburn and Georgia.
He tossed them off the stage one-by-one and unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a T-shirt that read Believe. He then caught a Jackson State cap — with a dark blue J on a white background — that was tossed to him from the crowd and put that on.
“I got a one in lifetime chance to play for one of the greats,” Hunter told WXIA-TV in Atlanta after making his announcement. “I got a chance to make a change in history.”
Since the evaluation and rating of high school recruits started to take off in the late 1990s and early 2000s, no player as highly regarded as Hunter has ever signed a scholarship out of high school with an HBCU such as Jackson State.
Top 100 players rarely sign outside the traditional college football power programs that play in the strongest conferences such as the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
Jackson State competes at a level several rungs below those conferences in the second tier of NCAA Division I football, the Championship Subdivision. Schools like Jackson State rarely if ever sign three-star players. Hunter is one of several dozen five-star prospects in the 2022 recruiting class.
A longtime member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Jackson State won its first SWAC title since 2007 last month.
‘We’re going to shock the country,” Sanders said Tuesday, the eve of the opening of the early signing period, on Barstool Sports’ “Unnecessary Roughness” podcast. Sanders has his own podcast on Barstool, “21st and Prime,” and is a regular contributor to the company’s most popular show, “Pardon My Take.”
Hunter had been expected to sign with Florida State as college football’s early signing period opened on Wednesday. He had given a non-binding verbal commitment to FSU in March and was considered the centerpiece of what the Seminoles hoped to be a recruiting class that would turn around the fortunes of a struggling superpower.
Florida State has won three national championships, most recently in 2013, but the program has fallen on hard times recently, with four straight losing seasons under two coaches.
“We’ve had 14 great young men that have joined our program today,” Florida State coach Mike Norvell told reporters at his signing day news conference. “That’s going to be our focus.”