We’re big fans of JUCO football. Legend Rings created the 2017 KJCCC Championship rings for the Independence Pirates – the team featured on Season 3 of Netflix’s Last Chance U. For those that aren’t familiar with the show, it follows the ups and downs of a JUCO team’s season. For the first two seasons, the show featured East Mississippi Community College (EMCC). The third season shifts to Independence, Kansas and the home of the aforementioned Independence Pirates. Season 3 of Last Chance U airs July 20th. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer.
JUCO football is great because it offers players a chance (as Last Chance U’s title suggests). For some players, it’s a second and final chance at turning their life around, after running into legal, academic or personal issues while attending a Division 1. For other players who weren’t star recruits, it gives them a chance to prove themselves and get a shot at a Division 1 team. A lot of amazing players have played in JUCO. Here’s our list of the top 5 (in no particular order):
If you asked the casual football fan where Aaron Rodgers career began or how he became an elite QB, you might get the response “as Brett Favre’s backup.” While that’s true, Rodgers was Favre’s backup for three seasons in Green Bay; his career began at a JUCO college. Rodgers received a total of 0 Division 1 offers out of highschool. So he went the JUCO route, playing for the Butte College Roadrunners in Oroville, California – 80 miles north of Sacramento. For the record, Butte’s Cowan Stadium has no lights!
Rodgers lead the Roadrunners to a 10-1 record with 28 touchdowns in 2002. From there, Rodgers played two years at Cal with a combined QB rating of 150.3 while setting many records. This lead to him being selected in the 1st round (24th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in 2005. The rest of the story you probably know. Rodgers sometimes mentions Butte in his television player introductions (when players say their name and school), giving love to the team that gave him a chance when chances were hard to come by.
This former JUCO star has won back-to-back Super Bowls (2016 with the New England Patriots and 2017 with the Philadelphia Eagles). The big running back has connections to East Mississippi Community College (the school featured in Seasons 1 and 2 of Last Chance U). A 2-star recruit out of high school, Blount didn’t have many recruiters chasing him. He attended camp at Auburn but was not offered an athletic scholarship. He still planned to attend Auburn but did not qualify academically, so he transferred to EMCC.
After spending two years at EMCC, Blount transferred to the University of Oregon. He gained a reputation as a big, physical and explosive running back during his two years with the Ducks. He scored a school record 17 touchdowns in 2008. Blount went undrafted at the 2010 NFL Draft. He has bounced around from team to team making stops in Tennessee, Tampa Bay, New England, Pittsburgh, New England again, Philadelphia and most recently Detroit (signing a 1-year contract in March 2018).
Blount turned his JUCO time into a career with 3 Super Bowl appearances, 2 Super Bowl rings, a Patriots’ franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season (18 in 2016) – and he’s still going.
Another Super Bowl champion. JPP started his college career at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California – a suburb of Los Angeles. After playing his junior year with the Cougars, Pierre-Paul transferred to Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kansas – about 95 miles south of Kansas City.
From there, JPP transferred to the University of South Florida where he earned the nickname the Haitian Sensation. Pierre-Paul was drafted in the first round (15th overall by the New York Giants) in the 2010 NFL Draft. After eight seasons in New York, he was recently traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JPP’s career highlights include a Super Bowl and 2 Pro Bowl selections.
Last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year also played a year in JUCO. After the 4-star recruit committed to Alabama, he joined a crowded backfield that featured the likes of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake as well as a list of other highly touted recruits. He worked his way into the fold, before being suspended for curfew issues. He was also arrested for driving with a suspended license.
He decided to transfer to Tennessee, but since he wanted to transfer to another SEC school, he went to JUCO for a year so that he was eligible to sign anywhere without restrictions. Kamara went to Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas – 52 miles northwest of Wichita. He scored 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,269 yards with the Blue Dragons. But his year in Kansas wasn’t about proving himself on the field (he was a 4-star recruit after all), it was about maturing and proving himself off the field. After Hutchinson, Kamara transferred to Tennessee as planned. He again joined a crowded backfield – this time sharing time with Jalen Hurd (now a WR at Baylor) and John Kelly (now an LA Ram). Kamara spent two seasons with the Volunteers before being drafted in the 3rd round (67th overall by the Saints) in the 2017 NFL Draft. This former JUCO star’s NFL career is off to a great start despite joining yet another crowded backfield.
Probably the most notable player to ever play in JUCO, Cam Newton played one season at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas – about 75 miles northwest of Houston.
After the former 4-star recruit got into legal issues (for stealing a laptop) in his redshirt sophomore year at the University of Florida, he went the JUCO route. Newton took his year in Texas in stride, focusing on football, school and building his leadership skills. 2009 not only gave him all that – but also resulted in a one-loss season and a national championship for the Buccaneers.
He could have been down and out after missing his chance to follow in Tim Tebow’s footsteps at Florida but instead forged his own path to being a first overall pick in the NFL. Newton left Blinn for Auburn the next year where he won the Heisman trophy. He was selected 1st overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and set all-time NFL rookie records for passing and rushing yards.
There’s much debate about who the greatest player to ever play in JUCO was – Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers. An argument could be made for either one. Each represents one of the two ways players generally find themselves playing at the JUCO level. Newton came for a second chance (after legal issues), and Rodgers came for just any chance. And that’s what makes JUCO so great – it gives people a chance (or two).