Why Travis Hunter, the No. 1 recruit for 2022, left FSU and the FBS for Jackson State

Travis Hunter went down the line of hats. First was an Auburn hat. He put it on his head, then tossed it aside. Then, he tried on a Georgia hat. He said he liked it too and that it fit him well, but it wasn’t his.

Those tuning in late to the announcement ceremony for the nation’s No. 1 recruit would have expected him then to take the Florida State hat and put it on. The five-star cornerback has been a Seminoles’ commit since March 3, 2020, and nothing had seemed to change leading up to the start of early signing period.

“It’s always been in my mind, but check me out. Mom, go get that hat,” Hunter said as he threw the Florida State hat aside. He was then flipped a Jackson State hat. He put it on, then added a Jackson State jacket as well.

Hunter was listed by 247Sports Composite Rankings as the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class. Now, he is set not to go to a Power Five school. Not even an FBS school. He will instead join Deion Sanders at FCS HBCU Jackson State in one of the most unprecedented decisions in the history of college football recruiting.

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Why Travis Hunter left FSU for Jackson State

There is no precedent for Hunter’s decision to go to Jackson State. In the past, No. 1 recruits flock to the annual powers of college football, most often landing with annual title contenders.

Here’s a look at the past No. 1 recruits, according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, over the past 10 years.

Each team is a Power Five program, and most of the teams have been considered title contenders — or at least were ranked — during this time.

So why did Hunter make this decision? In his announcement post on Twitter, Hunter said it had been a lifelong dream to play for Florida State, and that he never had a doubt he would play there.

“It’s a dream that is hard to let go of, but sometimes we are called to step into a bigger future than the one we imagined for ourselves. For me, that future is at Jackson State University,” Hunter said in his post. “Jerry Rice, Doug Williams, and of course the legend, JSU’s own Walter Payton — Historically Black Colleges and Universities have a rich history in football. I want to be part of that history, and more, I want to be part of that future.”

Hunter explained that he wants to be an example to others that HBCUs might have everything athletes are looking for, “an exciting college experience, a vital community and a life-changing place to play football.”

The commitment of Hunter is the latest major splash Sanders has made since joining the Tigers. His 2021 recruiting class featured five four-star recruits and ranked 55th in the nation, according to 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. One of the players was De’Jahn Warren, the No. 2 junior college prospect in the nation, and the other was Shedeur Sanders, the No. 241 recruit in the 2021 class.

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Sanders’ turnaround at Jackson State has been fast. He was hired to be the head coach in September 2020 and led the Tigers to a 4-3 record in the postponed 2020 season, which took place in the spring of 2021. The Tigers went 11-1 in 2021, however, going a perfect 9-0 in SWAC play, winning the division and conference. They will play in the Black national championship, the Celebration Bowl, on Dec. 18.

For Hunter, there will also be the appeal of playing for Sanders, a former Florida State cornerback, who is in both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He finished his career with two Super Bowl titles and eight Pro Bowl honors. He was both a corner and wide receiver in the NFL, finishing his career with 53 interceptions, nine interceptions returned for touchdowns, 13 fumble recoveries, 784 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.

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