By Jim Berry

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Orange Blossom Classic is returning to South Florida after 43 years.

The football game between historically Black colleges will kick off at Hard Rock Stadium on Labor Day weekend.

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The Orange Blossom Classic was such a staple in this community and in Black college football.

Its revival could be big because one big personality is helping to drive it.

“I cannot wait for this event. It’s just not a game, it’s a celebration,” said NFL great Deion Sanders.

The pro football hall of famer brought his outsized personality to South Florida to tout the resurrection of a Black college tradition.

Sanders, who is now the head coach at Jackson State will bring his team to South Florida on Labor Day weekend to face Florida A&M University.

“When we first introduced the idea of reviving the Orange Blossom Classic, our hairs stood up on the back of our necks,” said FAMU football coach Willie Simmons.

The Orange Blossom Classic dates back to 1933. In its heyday, it was the event in Black college sports.

“At one time, it was the Black National Championship and I have a strong feeling that Black college national champion may well be decided from this game,” added Simmons.

Attendance waned and interest declined in this game, as major universities integrated their football teams and pulled black talent away from historically Black colleges.

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Now Sanders, once a mega-star at Florida State and the NFL, is on a mission to bring HBCU’s up to the level of other major college programs.

“When the country turned a certain way, we were facing so much adversity and mayhem and ignorance and adolescents. God urged me and place in my spirit to get up and do something. Don’t talk about it go be about it,” said Sanders.

This game won’t just have football, it will have the bands bringing their high-energy performances that will keep the crowd in their seats at halftime.

The HBCU’s have never lost their flair. Now, Sanders hopes he can be a catalyst to help raise their profiles and budgets to re-attract five-star high school talent.

“The only way we are going to attract those types of kids and get those types of kids is everything has to look the same. That’s the only way we are going to level this thing. That’s the only way we are going to get those five stars, that’s the only way he is going to get those kids. That he can bring them and show them that you not leaving the hood to come to the hood,” said Sanders.

Sanders’s long-time buddy Luther Campbell is on board with his mission.

Campbell himself now a high school coach believes other retired NFL stars will follow suit.

“You’re seeing guys that are not desperate for money, who are retired. That have a lot of money and a lot of knowledge that can be able to go to a historically Black college without being lured to a regular White institution,” said Campbell. 

As a matter of fact, another former NFL star, Eddie George, is now the head coach at Tennessee State.

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The Orange Blossom Classic will be played in Miami Gardens, Sunday, September 5 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Jim Berry