UPDATED: The third season of “Last Chance U” was highlighted by the brash and profanity-spewing Independence Community College football coach Jason Brown and his highly talented, mercurial quarterback, Malik Henry. At times, the two bonded, but viewers usually watched the coach chew out, bench and threaten to kick the five star transfer from Florida State off the team.
So was the depiction of their relationship accurate, or was it beefed up to intensify the drama for the Netflix docuseries?
“They kind of failed to show the other side of me and Coach Brown’s relationship,” Henry told Variety at Sunday’s Athletes vs. Cancer celebrity flag football game. “But TV is TV and they have to sell.”
“Last Chance U” director and executive producer Greg Whiteley disputed the claim in a statement to Variety.
“As documentary filmmakers, we take very seriously our responsibility to accurately portray the lives of all the student athletes, coaches, and teachers who agree to allow our cameras into their lives,” Whiteley said. “For the last three seasons, we have prioritized authenticity and honesty in our storytelling, and will continue to do so in our upcoming fourth season.”
“I think Greg Whiteley, the director, did a great job,” Henry added. “I just wish we they would have shown the other side of me and Coach Brown’s relationship just a little more, because I feel like more people would have realized that he is more like an older brother, father figure type.”
In the first episode, Henry called his own plays in a game, going against Brown’s strategy. He was repeatedly vocal about a lack of organization in Brown’s system.
“We just had that kind of relationship where we can express our feelings in that way,” Henry said.
Henry says for the most part, the feedback he has received has been positive, but believes there was perception that he and Brown failed to get along. Both coach and quarterback share similar backgrounds, coming from equally tough parts of Los Angeles, playing the same position — something that Brown drew from as a bond in his recruitment pitch to Henry.
“They just didn’t show both sides and they could have shown both sides,” he said. “They had a lot of opportunities to but they didn’t.”
For the Independence players, the junior college program offers a shot at salvaging their football futures in the wake of off the field or personal differences at other, more high profile universities. For players like Henry, the series offers next level national exposure, while, at times, providing up too much personal information that could potentially scare recruiters away.
“They put in a lot of my trash talking,” Henry points out. “That’s stuff that fans and people watching the game wouldn’t hear unless I was mic’d up.”
During games, Henry was warned by officials for mouthing off and penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Coaches Brown and Frank Diaz were shown urging maturity and discipline to their quarterback.
“If they didn’t hear that, I believe the series wouldn’t have looked as bad. So it hurts me in ways like that.”
Even so, the quarterback is grateful for the “Last Chance U” experience and the reach of the Netflix series.
“Some people get to see the other side of Malik, the background story of me,” he says. “It was a great experience overall, so I have no regrets about it.”