With the 2018 season fast approaching, the race to fill openings within Miami football’s starting lineup has been fierce throughout the offseason. In the defensive backfield, junior college transfer Zedrick Raymond has impressed — despite his quiet demeanor off the field, Raymond plays the game fast and technically sound.
But he looks different on Netflix.
Raymond joined the Miami program in the winter of 2018 after spending a year at Independence Community College, a program made famous by the Netflix original Last Chance U.
For its first two seasons, Last Chance U profiled East Mississippi Community College, a perennial power in the world of junior college football known for turning around the lives and careers of troubled stars.
For its third season, it shifted to ICC, an up and coming JUCO program in the Jayhawk Conference.
Independence, KS is a small, tired town with a population just under 9,000. Typically, football players who end up in Indy aren’t there because they want to be, but because they have to be to move to the Division I level.
Like many, Raymond’s initial plan did not include the Independence Community College Pirate football program. After high school, the 6-foot corner went to Division II Delta State where he saw success early, but after an offseason knee surgery, Raymond rolled the dice on his future and decided to walk on at ICC.
“I decided to take a chance on myself. I believed I could play at the next level,” Raymond said. “I actually didn’t tell my mama I was going JUCO until the last two weeks because I knew she would try to talk me out of it.”
Despite moving to the JUCO level, Raymond’s move to the plains of Kansas was a risky one, as there were no guarantees he would see the field given the amount of talent on the pirate roster The majority of the starters there were four- and five-star recruits from top-tier programs including Florida State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Michigan and Arkansas.
“I knew what I was coming there for and I knew what odds I was up against,” Raymond said.
“It was talented at every position. Six of us went D-1 at the cornerback group — everybody got offers.”
On top of battling to see the field, Raymond also faced the unique challenges of daily life in Independence. After his time thus far in Oxford, Raymond said he has come to appreciate the academic support he receives at Miami, a far-cry from the status-quo at the junior college level.
The overall appearance of Miami’s campus is another piece the JUCO product enjoys more than most after spending a year at an institution whose amenities were sub-par in Raymond’s mind.
“It was a lot more grimy than what it was on the show,” Raymond said. “Even the food — they showed that the food was bad, but it was way worse than that.”
While Raymond is portrayed on the show as quiet and hard-working, others from bigger schools were not as thankful for the opportunity. Players like quarterback Malik Henry found the Pirates after being a 5-star recruit with dozens of Division I offers out of high school, but is shown in the series talking back to coaches, skipping class and disrespecting opposing teams.
“On the field, much respect for him because that’s one of the greatest quarterbacks I have ever played with,” Raymond said of Henry. “It was hard for him because he came from Florida State and really didn’t want to be there.”
Despite the antics of Henry and others, ICC head coach Jason Brown is the star. Much like Coach Stephens of the first and second seasons of the show, Brown is notoriously hard on his players, but has garnered the reputation of graduating his players to the next level.
“That’s him. That’s the real him,” Raymond said. “You wanted to play for him if you were bought in. At the same time, he pushes limits.”
Although plenty of Brown’s tenacity comes through onscreen — ranging from frequent profanity to threatening and fighting opposing coaches — according to Raymond, that only accounts for a part of who the Compton native truly is, especially relative to the seasons showing East Mississippi.
“He was very filtered,” Raymond said. “ICC was filtered and EMCC wasn’t filtered.”
Despite — or maybe because of — Coach Brown’s intensity, Raymond quietly put together a solid season, making 27 tackles and six interceptions, good for fourth best in the nation. This performance was enough to get him on the radar of Division I schools across the nation. From Houston to Oxford, there were coaches calling the 180 lb. corner to recruit him.
In unfamiliar territory, Raymond consulted his mother about the next stop in his football career, selecting Chuck Martin and the RedHawks.
“My mama gave me the okay,” Raymond said. “She liked the vibe with the coaches. She could hear in their voices that they were sincere. It was a no-brainer.”
What’s next for the product of Last Chance U? Raymond plans to help fill the void left by former RedHawks Heath Harding and Tony Reid after their graduation. However, he has his eyes set on making this final chance pay off in the long-run.
“I definitely want to step in and start,” Raymond said. “My mindset is to feed my family. Of course I want to get to the NFL, and I’ll do whatever I have to do to get to the NFL whether it’s this year or next year. That’s the vision.”
The RedHawks open the season Saturday against Marshall. You can see Raymond on the field — no longer just on Netflix. The game will kick at 3:30 and will be aired on ESPN+.