Independence, Kansas is a small town of about 8,800 residents located in the southeast corner of the Sunflower State. Nestled in this tiny dot on a map is Independence Community College. With an enrollment of 1,600 students, ICC is the one of the smallest community colleges in the country. Even though the size of its campus may be similar to that of the town, ICC has amassed a football program that’s slowly becoming larger than life.
The ICC Pirates are this season’s featured team on the Netflix series Last Chance U. Much like the previous two seasons, Last Chance U Season 3 features a handful of football players looking for a second chance, a fresh start, and in some cases, a chance to better their overall life situation through football.
Moving away from the juggernaut of East Mississippi Community College, the Netflix series documents the 2017 season of the ICC football program. This program has struggled for many years until recently. This recent surge in on-the-field productivity is due in part to the leadership of the Pirates’ head coach Jason Brown.
The third installment of the series starts in the preseason leading up to the Pirates’ 2017 campaign, and Brown’s second year at the helm. The show takes its viewers through the ups and downs of the season while giving an inside and uncensored look into a junior college football program. The show, set up as a documentary, also provides viewers with seeing firsthand the academic and athletic trials and tribulations that the student-athletes of the team go through during the course of the season.
Similar to the first two seasons featuring EMCC, the series in Season 3 chronicles certain players, coaches and faculty at ICC. Even though the characters are different, the drama, attitudes, and personalities still take center stage in what is arguably a more polarizing season than the previous two seasons that took place in Scooba, Mississippi.
On any football team, the attitude of the players reflects that of the leadership, and the leadership of the ICC Pirates is, well, interesting to say the least. To say Coach Brown doesn’t shy away from confrontation, vulgarity, and drama is an understatement. He presents himself as being transparent and real, while taking pride in his childhood upbringing from the neighborhoods of south central Los Angeles’ Compton community.
Through the course of the season Coach Brown’s personality and demeanor vibrantly show through the good and bad interactions he has with his players and staff. He preaches heavily on a “tough love” concept. The “tough” part is shown within the first 30 seconds of Episode 1 and continues throughout the whole season. Much like Buddy Stephens from EMCC, Coach Brown has no filter and says whatever is on his mind at the time no matter how vulgar or demeaning. The “love” part is evident in the way he strives to bring out the best in his players so they can maximize their full potential on the field while helping them to succeed in the classroom in order for them to eventually graduate and leave ICC for bigger Division I and Division II programs. His proudest claim is that he has never had a student-athlete get kicked out of another program after that student-athlete leaves Coach Brown’s program.
Reaching back to his upbringing, Coach Brown always cites his Compton roots as the source of his inner toughness. Having seen close friends die in front of him due to gang violence, Brown brings an element to the table that many of his players can relate to because some of them have grown up in similar situations.
The three most popularized players in Season 3 are Quarterback Malik Henry, Center Jerry Buckmaster, and Linebacker Bobby Bruce. All three are emotionally relatable to Coach Brown in some way. Henry comes from roughly the same area of Southern California as Brown, while Buckmaster and Bruce come from homes where at least one parent has been incarcerated at some point or another. All three players play a significant role on the team and truly affect the outcome of certain games throughout the season.
Off the field, and in the classroom, most of the players struggle academically as many openly state that academics have never been a top priority in their lives. However, through these tough times some of the players have an English teacher, LaTonya Pinkyard, who also acts as a mentor to them. Many viewers remember Ms. Wagner from EMCC and the role of academic advisor and friend that she played in helping the players succeed. Pinkyard fits that mould at ICC as she encourages some of the players, especially Bruce, to find their self-worth in something other than football.
Even with the positive stories at times and seeing some of the players mature over the course of the season, at times, the good moments are overshadowed by the attitude and drama stemming from the course of a college football season. A handful of Brown’s players have tasted success at mega Power 5 programs such as Florida State (Malik Henry), Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Michigan. In leaving those programs for different reasons, some of those players tend to be more entitled and come across with a mindset that they’re too good for ICC. This obviously does not sit well with Brown.
Many times during the season Coach Brown verbally berates his players for giving lackluster effort, showing up late to meetings and practices, and failing or not attending classes. At times, confrontations get so heated that Brown lashes out at players and even some of his assistant coaches. He always says his piece and moves on, but at times, it’s apparent his words leave a lasting impact on the people getting chewed out.
Last Chance U Season 3 is tougher to swallow than the first two seasons. It’s a small stretch from the days of EMCC, but for any football fan, it’s totally worth the watch. At the very least, one can definitely learn a new vocabulary from Coach Brown.
Berger’s Score: 7.5 out of 10