How a cameraman was a bright spot for Jackson State, Deion Sanders after rushing for 126 yards in a loss

Rashad Milligan
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Losing three-games in a row is never easy for a coach, but that didn't stop Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders from having a proud moment.

Enter walk-on running back Santee Marshall.

During the Tigers' 52-43 loss to Alabama A&M on Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Marshall made quite the debut.

Starting running back Greg Williams got hurt on the first offensive play of the game for a Tigers team already dealing with lingering injuries.

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Marshall capitalized on the moment to the tune of 126 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

"I'm so darn proud of that kid," Sanders said. "That kid went for a buck 30 on ESPN? And was a cameraman several weeks ago? Don't you ever tell me what God ain't. God, I'm proud of that kid."

Marshall first came on to JSU's campus as a member of the camera crew working on a documentary called "Coach Prime."

Jackson State University's Santee Marshall, left, celebrates with his team after he scored a touchdown against Alabama A&M during their game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss., Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Marshall then became a member of the scout team, but after watching the way he worked on a consistent basis, Sanders said he wanted him to get in the game.

Sanders said Marshall's performance answered his message to the team this week of taking advantage of opportunity when it presents itself, and his showing was the first time the Tigers had a 100-yard rusher in a game since Tyson Alexander went for 184 against Grambling State on March 6.

Williams got the start because Alexander and Kymani Clarke had been battling injuries. Clarke did not have a carry for two games coming into Saturday, and he only carried the ball twice Saturday for three yards in the first half.

Another, less surprising, adjustment that Sanders and his staff made Saturday came at quarterback. Jackson State (3-3, 2-2 SWAC) announced Tuesday that freshman Quincy Casey would get his first start of the season, replacing sophomore Jalon Jones.

Casey went 30 for 47 for 323 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was the Tigers' best passing performance of the season.

"He played well, man," Sanders said of Casey. "He needs to make a few better decisions, but he's coming off the bench, really hasn't played much this year. I think he did a phenomenal job."

All season, Sanders and his staff said Jackson State wanted the offense to focus on passing more than running. Casey only scrambled six times, as opposed to Jones' 15 in a loss to Southern last week.

The first-year coach also complimented the offensive unit's resiliency in this week's game. 

"I'm happy that we didn't give up offensively at all," he said. "Quincy did a great job."

Not giving up and work ethic were two reasons Sanders went with Casey. The Pro Football Hall of Famer said the freshman treated practice like it was a game and earned the spot. He also said he'd rather have a unit of the hardest workers as opposed to the most talented players on the field. 

"I made it apparent I want (Marshall) in the darn game," Sanders said. "Give him the darn ball. Let's see. What we got to lose? Low and behold, we found somebody going into the fall that we know can contribute the right way. I'm happy with him."

After collecting an expected-forfeited win over Alcorn State, who opted out of the season, next week, JSU plans to finish the season against Prairie View A&M on April 24. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Contact Rashad Milligan at 601-862-6198 or Jmilligan@gannett.com. Follow @RashadMilligan on Twitter.