“Last Chance U” director Greg Whiteley could not have found a better bridge from season one to season two of his hit documentary series.
The show, which followed East Mississippi Community College’s football program during the 2015 season, returns for a second Netflix season Friday and begins with a storyline very familiar to viewers in season one.
In October of 2015, EMCC was involved in a bench-clearing brawl with Mississippi Delta Community College. The fight and its aftermath were captured by the documentary crews filming the first season at the school located in the small-town of Scooba, Mississippi.
Punishments for the fight carried over into the 2016 season. EMCC had to play its first game without anyone on the team who was there in 2015.
“They begin their first game with every single returning person — and not just players — every coach, trainer, they suspended the team chaplain,” Whiteley told Yahoo Sports. “Every single person with the exception of the head coach is suspended for that first game so the only people they can play are brand new freshmen or the handful of dropped down sophomores they had from other schools. It’s chaos.”
Don’t worry. If you haven’t seen the show yet, Whiteley said there’s plenty of recap of the events of October 2015 to make you feel like you don’t have to watch all six episodes of season one before watching season two.
Before the show, the town of Scooba was a sleepy 700-person community that was known in football circles for the excellence of its football team. A big reason why Whiteley chose EMCC in season one was because of the team’s track record in taking in players from Division I schools and sending players to top-level schools after their two years at EMCC were up.
After the release of season one, Scooba wasn’t as remote as it used to be. Crazily enough, Whiteley said it became a tourist attraction.
“I would say every single week we were there, there was somebody, from some part of the world who had seen the show that had decided by virtue of the show they needed to come see Scooba, Mississippi,” Whiteley said. “And two of those people were people from Scotland and they were on their honeymoon.”
Unfortunately, the Scotland couple’s interview didn’t make the cut for the final product. But Whiteley said they are visible in postgame crowd shot.
The popularity of the show affected academic advisor Brittany Wagner’s life too. Wagner was perhaps the biggest star of season one and received numerous marriage proposals after men had watched the show.
Since season two was being filmed not long after the release of season one, Wagner was dealing with a barrage of attention while also trying to balance her work responsibilities. She told Yahoo Sports that there came a point where she was simply exhausted and season two chronicles her tumultuous experience at the school.
“In the beginning, I didn’t do a very good job [of balance],” Wagner said. “Because I wanted to respond to everybody. Every email I got, I wanted to read it and I wanted to respond to it and I was taking it all very seriously. I wanted to do every interview, every event, I wanted to be there if people wanted me there. I was trying to do it all and I realized about a month into trying to do all that I was exhausted, I was staying up until 2 a.m. answering emails from fans or people just emailing and I couldn’t do it. So I started prioritizing.”
Wagner said that many of the school’s new players had seen the show before school had begun. And that she would use former running back D.J. Law and defensive lineman Ronald Ollie — two main characters from season one — as examples to new players throughout the 2016 season.
“I would use the characters of the show a lot and say look ‘D.J. Law was stressed out and in the position he was in at the end of season one because he didn’t handle his business freshman year,” Wagner said. “And Ollie was almost the opposite of that. Ollie kind of got it together and made the decision that he was going to do right. And then you saw him in the position that he had himself in at the end of the year.
“So I would say that to the guys; ‘You’re going to choose. You’re either going to be Law or you’re going to be Ollie.”
Wagner left EMCC after the 2016 season and now has her own academic consulting service. She told Yahoo that her independent efforts have been boosted by the show, which ended up being a two-year showcase of her work.
“There’s instant credibility,” Wagner said. “I can say my name and I’m the counselor from ‘Last Chance U’ and there’s instant buy-in from athletes everywhere because 90 percent of them have seen the show.”
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