Deion Sanders and Jackson State’s Rob Jay connected on ‘Thee Pregame Show’ — Andscape
There was one last question to close the Dec. 4 news conference introducing Deion Sanders as Colorado’s head football coach, a question that surely had been weighing on the minds of many who had been following him these last few months.
“Is Rob Jay gonna be able to roll with you to the Broncos game?”
The Rob Jay in question here is Robert Jeuitt — Jackson State assistant athletic director for broadcasting and video services, longtime Tigers play-by-play football and basketball voice, local TV legend, and Coach Prime whisperer. Just before Sanders took the job at Colorado, there were rumors of his imminent departure to Boulder. Sanders, though, didn’t want to entertain the talk, and kept the focus on the upcoming matchup with Southern in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
But Rob Jay, as only he can in his weekly one-on-one interviews with Sanders, ran an end run on the Hall of Famer. After stating his strong love of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeuitt put it to the coach like this:
“Next week, they play the Denver Broncos in Colorado. … I’m goin withchu or we gon ride together?”
Sanders, all teeth, fell back in his chair, as Jeuitt dropped the mic and walked off.
“Now that’s a good one!” Sanders said to camera, as Jeuitt circled back. “So why you gon do your boy like that?”
Much has been said about what Sanders leaves behind by taking the Colorado job. But not enough words have been devoted to his weekly sit-downs on Thee Pregame Show, the portal many outside Mississippi have come to rely on for their inside look into Sanders’ time at Jackson State. The chemistry between Sanders and Jeuitt is beyond that of a sports star and his pet reporter. It’s the stuff that makes great comedy duos.
Football is just an icebreaker, something to ruminate on until Sanders teases Jeuitt for zoning out during his answer or makes fun of his ties. And Jeuitt, like a good improv scene partner, happily assumes the straight man role. Though he winds up taking most of the blows, Jeuitt gets his shots in too. Once, as Sanders was equivocating about an injured player, Jeuitt came straight out and asked: “The hell wrong wit him?” That Sanders could laugh at being called out and give a simple answer afterward shows the true respect between them.
Still, America wasn’t ready. The first time the masses caught wind of this act was before Jackson State’s game against Bethune-Cookman in October. Jeuitt began by introducing Sanders in his best broadcaster voice, which triggered the coach to nip the interview in the bud. “Straight up: You was not talkin like that two minutes ago,” Sanders protested. “Can you come in like you normally sound?”
Jeuitt tried again. Sanders stopped him again. “Dawg, it’s the same,” the coach complained before showing him how to relax on the mic. “I don’t know who you tryna please out there, but I just want you to try your best to be you.”
The exchange didn’t just go viral; it prompted news headlines about Jeuitt being called out for code-switching — changing the way he spoke depending on the audience. But had those folks been listening closely to the people trying to stifle giggles off camera, they would’ve known that this too was a bit. And they didn’t hesitate to double down on the joke the next time they linked up, this time opening with Jeuitt correcting Sanders’ stuffy broadcaster pose. (“I thought it was ironic that people took what we do every week like I was coming at you, like I would come at my dawg,” Sanders said.) But the coup de grâce was Jeuitt, as he does every week, giving Sanders a T-shirt that read “If anybody’s SWAC, Rob Jay is SWAC.” The gift, a running end-of-show set piece, wasn’t just a callback to Sanders’ spat with Alabama State coach Eddie Robinson, it was the ultimate parting shot for a guy who really is true to that game.
Apart from a brief stint in Memphis, Tennessee, Jeuitt has been part of the capital city sports scene for more than three decades, initially commuting 3½ hours to Montgomery, Alabama, where he called Alabama State football games. The real irony of Jeuitt getting called out for code-switching is that he’s always kept the same energy while circling the local TV dial, which is to say he gives it to you like you’d get it from your uncle or your barber. And when he did go against type, it was to play Pops — an alter ego he created that’s similar to comedian Richard Pryor’s character Mudbone for the radio, akin to the great sports journalist Ralph Wiley’s Road Dog.
Folk didn’t always get it. In the 1990s, one Clarion-Ledger columnist dubbed Jeuitt a self-serving clown. “Seldom does a day pass that he doesn’t find some way to include himself in his reports,” groused Joe Culpepper. Little did he know that Jeuitt’s personal touch is what makes him such a draw. So, it figured that Jeuitt would find an instant rapport with arguably the most magnetic sports figure of the last 30 years.
Which is what makes the breakup between Jeuitt and Sanders so bittersweet. “This has been the best I’ve ever seen since I’ve been at Jackson State,” Jeuitt told DNVR Sports, adding that the frenzy to jump on Colorado’s bandwagon now is justified. “He’s gonna win. People were fans of Deion Sanders before he got [to Jackson State]. Now, me, I obviously wasn’t a fan of Deion Sanders because he never played for the Chiefs.”
Their weekly interview was supposed to be a more straightforward highlight show. But when Sanders scoffed at that idea, Jeuitt pivoted to the more casual one-on-one format. The cheeky Colorado job question was Jeuitt at his shrewdest. He had it on good authority that Sanders was taking the job. But rather than ask to confirm the intel and risk the coach tuning out, Jeuitt took the more lighthearted approach. The rest was comedy gold. Never mind that the exchange ultimately failed to produce tickets to that Chiefs-Broncos game.
At his Colorado introductory news conference, Sanders noted his new bosses’ interest in maintaining a relationship with Jackson State. It’s hoped that means the Sanders and Rob Jay show goes on.
“He sees everything,” Jeuitt said of Sanders. “If he doesn’t trust you, he will not let you in his circle. It took me a while to gain that trust from him.”
Really, it would be a shame if these two didn’t find some way to keep in touch. Rob Jay might be the first person to genuinely catch Sanders off guard.