“Last Chance U,” one of the most popular shows on Netflix, highlights a junior college football team and tells the stories of several players looking to earn a scholarship at a Division I program.
The fifth season followed the Laney College program in Oakland, Calif., during the 2019 season. One of that team’s players, kicker KC Onwuemeka, has since joined the Morgan State football team and has two years of eligibility remaining. He’s been a fan of the show since it featured East Mississippi Community College’s 2015 season and believes it can really benefit the players who are highlighted.
“I watched EMCC the first day it came out and I’ve been a fan of the show ever since,” Onwuemeka said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 3. “It really helped some of my teammates a lot. … Getting the exposure they deserve, I’m glad it worked out for them.”
Onwuemeka played at Laney from 2017-2019, though he missed most of the 2018 season due to injury. He played soccer growing up, but he shifted his focus to football as a senior at Hercules High School in Hercules, Calif. He was a safety and kicker. His future after high school was unclear until Laney’s staff called Onwuemeka’s high school coach and expressed interest.
He initially wasn’t interested in attending a junior college but after visiting Laney’s campus he decided it was the place for him. Laney is unlike many other junior colleges since the student-athletes don’t live on campus and aren’t provided frequent meals by the team. Onwuemeka said it required players to really have a passion for football to handle the added challenges.
“It’s definitely way different than any other JUCO outside of California,” Onwuemeka said. “I’m fortunate enough to live with my parents and they provide everything for me, so I was really fortunate.”
Not every player featured on “Last Chance U” is as fortunate. Many players have inspirational stories, such as wide receiver Dior Walker-Scott.
“But one of the crazy things is as you saw … Dior’s story, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way he acts,” Onwuemeka said. “He carries himself like nothing is going on. That’s a real athlete mentality. You have to really love football to do it.”
Walker-Scott filled in at quarterback during his sophomore season in 2019 when Laney lost multiple quarterbacks to injury. He caught 40 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 and is attending the University of Hawaii as a preferred walk-on. Walker-Scott was homeless while the fifth season of “Last Chance U” was being filmed. Despite that, he still attended practices and games while working part time at night.
Onwuemeka didn’t know anything about Morgan State before he started attending classes this spring; he was taken by surprise when Bears special teams coordinator Anthony Binker began recruiting him. Last season, Morgan State went 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. In July, the MEAC postponed the upcoming football season over concerns of COVID-19. The MEAC is one of many conferences considering a spring season.
As more recruits, particularly in basketball, consider HCBUs, Onwuemeka says they can make an impact in their sport and away from it, too, by attending HCBUs.
“I used to say I’m going to a Power Five, not going to any other school, but now having talent or having five-star talent at an HBCU can really help your community in ways you couldn’t imagine,” Onwuemeka said. “Seeing high ranked players make that initiative to go to HBCUs, I really feel like it will start a trend of HBCUs getting more recognition and respect.”
Onwuemeka now turns his focus to his next chapter with the Bears. He will compete with junior kicker/punter Nicholas O’Shea for playing time whenever the team gets going again. Last year, O’Shea played in every game for Morgan State and was named third-team All-MEAC by Phil Steele. His 59 points were fifth best in the conference, while his 35.8 yards per punt were seventh best.
Onwuemeka hopes to create a name for himself far beyond the spotlight of “Last Chance U.”
“It all worked out in the end,” Onwuemeka said. “Now I’m at Morgan State looking to leave a legacy there.”
For more from Onwuemeka, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix