On the junior college level, there is one team that is consistently among the highest-ranked in the JUCO standings.
East Mississippi Community College has built a reputation for beating their opponents until the final buzzer and shutting them down on defense as well. With scores such as 69-0, 56-7 and 48-0, EMCC has built a reputation for its offense.
Now, that team is known for being “Last Chance U.”
“I don’t consider myself a celebrity,” said former EMCC receiver and current Golden Eagle starter Allenzae Staggers. “I consider myself a regular athlete. All the attention is great but, I still got to stay focused on what I’m here for.”
The EMCC 2015 football season was covered in a Netflix documentary series entitled “Last Chance U.” Not only was the season documented, but various players made cameos during the six-part documentary.
“We don’t really think about us being movie stars,” said fellow past EMCC receiver and Southern Miss starter Isaiah Jones. “That’s really what we went through. People play around with us about the movie. We’ve been able to keep our head straight.”
The documentary not only covered the 8-1 season where the Lions averaged 50.6 points a game, but it showcased the ins and outs of being a JUCO athlete. In the highlight of the documentary, the EMCC football team got into a brawl with the Mississippi Delta Community College football team that showed Jones getting into a profanity-laced tirade with the EMCC coaching staff.
After that season ended and the two stepped on the USM campus, they became roommates. In turn, it brought them just a bit closer on and off the field.
“We’ve been roommates since we got here,” Jones said. “We’re always trying to do better than the other. If he makes a big play, I want to make a big play. We’re always competing.”
Jones and Staggers fought for their repetitions with senior quarterback Nick Mullens and the first-team offense. With the receiving core possibly going six deep with the likes of D.J. Thompson, Marquise Ricard, Reid Rials and others, both of those receivers had to fight for their time on the field.
“I don’t really have that much time left,” Jones said. “If I want it, I have to get it now. If I want it, I got to get it now. The other receivers know that, so that makes them push harder.”
The former EMCC receivers were given the starting nod against Kentucky and Jones provided an immediate impact in his first game as a D-I athlete. Jones finished the game with three catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Staggers on the other hand, did not register a reception in the game. But, he says that it is just fine with him even if he cannot make an impact on the field with his play.
“When I’m not on the field, I motivate my teammates — the defense and the offense, the quarterbacks, all of them,” Staggers said.
Even if they may not share the field at the same time, the former EMCC and now USM teammates, will share a bond that extends beyond the field of play.
“I got his back and he’s got mine,” Jones said.