by Maurice Williams, Hampton University Sports Information Director (Courtesy CoSIDA)
It is impossible to overstate the significance of Sam Jefferson's career – not just to Jackson State University, but to the sports information profession as a whole.
"Sam is to Jackson State what Eddie Robinson was to Grambling State," Lonnie Wesley, who served as assistant sports information director and marketing director at Jackson State with Jefferson, said. "He was that important, not just to the school, but the profession."
"Every SID since Sam owes him the world."
Jefferson spent 29 years as the Sports Information Director at his alma mater, Jackson State (1973-2002), in a career in which he covered some of the school's most celebrated student-athletes and helped blaze a trail for others after him.
For all of his accomplishments, Jefferson will be inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame this year. He received the honor along with four others at the annual CoSIDA Convention in luncheon ceremonies on June 9 at the World Center Marriott in Orlando. Jefferson was chosen for induction by the CoSIDA Hall of Fame veteran's committee.
"It's a tremendous honor," Jefferson said. "There is no greater honor in the world than to be recognized by your peers."
"I can think of no one more deserving of induction into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame than Sam Jefferson," Lonza Hardy, Director of Athletics at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, said. "During his storied career at Jackson State, he was a true professional who was a pace-setter among his peers – not only in our conference, but also on a national scale."
"Sam has always been about serving others," commented Langston Rogers, Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at Ole Miss, a member of the veteran's committee. "His has been a life well-lived and his selection to the CoSIDA Hall of Fame is most deserving."
A native of Centreville, Miss., Jefferson was named SID of the Year by the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) nine times – including a stretch of six years in a row from 1997 to 2002. He was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2008.
"Sam has so many special talents," former Jackson State head football coach W.C. Gorden said. "He was efficient, loyal, dependable, and he was tireless…we got as much coverage in the Jackson area as (Mississippi's) big Div. I schools at the time."
When Jefferson took the job at Jackson State in 1973, he wound up covering athletes who would go on to become some of the best in their respective sports; legendary running back Walter Payton, for instance, was a junior when Jefferson came to Jackson State.
Other football standouts from that era include Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile. Jefferson also covered the collegiate exploits of pitcher Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd.
"It was a pleasure to work with top-flight athletes and top-flight coaches," Jefferson said.
In 1980, Jackson State had 20 active NFL players, which at the time was tied for the most for any school in the nation. The football program enjoyed a string of dominance under Gorden, who won eight SWAC titles in 15 years.
And Jefferson was there to cover all of it.
"Someone had to let everyone know what was going on," former Jackson State Director of Athletics Dr. Walter Reed said, "and Sam did just that. He is one-of-a-kind; these accolades are long overdue."
But it wasn't just all about football at Jackson State.
"I always knew everyone (of Jackson State's) needs would get taken care of," William Hamilton, retired Sports Information Director at South Carolina State, said. "Jackson State had such a strong football tradition, but Sam made sure all of the other sports got their due."
A winner of the CoSIDA 25-Year Award, Jefferson also won the BCSIDA Perseverance Award and the SWAC Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
"All the awards mean I had a lot of help over the years," Jefferson said.
He is married to the former Roney M. Hart and they have three sons: Eldric, Samuel III, and Reginald. They also have six grandchildren. In fact, Jefferson was married throughout his tenure at Jackson State, proving it is possible for a SID to achieve that work-life balance.
"I had a supportive family," Jefferson said. "Working in sports information, it's almost impossible to do this job without a supporting and understanding family and I owe everything that I have accomplished to my family and for them I am grateful."
Perhaps Jefferson's greatest legacy, though, is in the people he touched along the way.
"Two words come to mind: integrity and credibility," Wesley said. "At times, Sam talked to me like I was his son; others, he talked to me like I was his little brother. He built a legacy, not just at Jackson State, but all over the state of Mississippi and for all HBCUs."
"Sam always pursued excellence in everything he did," Hardy said. "Consequently, he made everyone around him better at what they did."
But perhaps Jefferson's former boss put it best.
"(CoSIDA) got a good one," Reed said. "Sam was the epitome of what an SID should be."