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May 2, 2019

Not too long ago in July 2016, the widely known Netflix documentary Last Chance U was released. The humor of the players, intensity of the coaches, and the real, harsh reality that JUCO players endure in their two years at school led to many great reviews After chatting with Jonathan Alexander, a safety at Kansas State, I realized the documentary is not too far off in displaying what playing football at a JUCO may be like.  

Jonathan did not start taking football seriously until his sophomore year of high school when he was told that he had the potential to go to college for free if he was able to put in the work necessary to earn a scholarship, which is exactly what he did. By the end of his high school career he was ranked the 99th best safety nationally in the class of 2016 by 247Sports and had earned first team all-district honors his senior season. He had originally committed to Texas A&M –Commerce. However, coach David Overstreet II from Garden City Community College had reached out to Jonathan and explained to him that he would be limiting his potential by playing at the division two level. That was when Jonathan decided to take the JUCO route.  

Jonathan played one season at Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas but after playing ten games had only recorded one tackle and one pass breakup. GCCC was similar to EMCC and Independence, the two JUCO’s featured in Last Chance U, because while many talented athletes attend these JUCO’s, very few make it out due to how tough it is. Jonathan described GCCC by saying it was the, “bottom of the bottom”, with very low funding. There was a constant grind which included days where he was so exhausted that it made it harder than normal to go to class, and multiple meals were missed because weights or practice were scheduled during the same time. While the tough practices and hard work were not reflected in their record once the season came to a close, Jonathan said the biggest difference between playing at this JUCO and playing at Kansas State is that it created a brotherhood. The struggle of playing at GCCC created a brotherhood that could not be found at many other colleges.  

Fast forward to the next season, and Jonathan found himself back in the state of Texas playing at Kilgore College. At the end of his season at Kilgore, Jonathan was ranked the 14th best community college safety in the class of 2019, received honorable mention all-conference, ended the season with a 10-2 record, and helped lead the Rangers to a 4th place national ranking. His experience at Kilgore was much more enjoyable, in large part due to the fact that he was back in his home state. However, playing at Kilgore was still nothing compared to what playing at the division one level is like. While there are many talented athletes that play at the JUCO level, the overall game at the division one level is more physical, faster, and requires a higher football IQ. Jonathan explains that you really have to be thinking ahead of the play before the ball is even snapped. Perhaps the biggest difference is that a football player at the division one level is playing for something much bigger now. There is much more pressure to perform at a high level, but to also represent the school well on and off the field.  

Jonathan went from spending the first semester of his sophomore year in high school at an alternative school, to now playing football in one of the top five power conferences. However, the ceiling does not stop there for Jonathan. He has big hopes for what the Wildcats could do within the Big 12 this season, and he knows that if he focuses on making himself a better football player, he will be able to do big things; including making it to the league one day. Perhaps the best quality about Jonathan is that he is humble and looks at this opportunity as a blessing. He describes football as a path that God opened for him to get an education that he may not have been able to receive otherwise. Whether he ends up as an NFL player, or a counselor, Jonathan hopes to one day give back to the community that raised him by opening a daycare facility. More often than not, many JUCO players are viewed as trouble makers, but Jonathan Alexander was a great reminder that these JUCO players have stories that need to be heard, with humble attitudes that hope to one day impact the world for the better. 

Jonathan Alexander (From JUCO to D1): Project
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