LUMBERTON — Tyreik McCallum, a former standout wide receiver at Lumberton High School, has felt like a celebrity when he has went out in public in the last few weeks.
McCallum attended Independence Community College in Kansas after he graduated Lumberton in 2017, where he was recruited to join the football program. McCallum joined a signing class that was chock full Division I transfers that were three-, four- and five-star recruits out of high school, who were looking to stay academically eligible to transfer out to another NCAA school.
The draw of having a roster full of Division I players on a junior college roster was perfect fit for the producers of the popular Nextflix documentary “Last Chance U” for the third season that was released on July 20. The program filmed its first two seasons at East Mississippi Community College. The third season went to the small town of Independence, Kan., to document the historic season the Pirates had in 2017 that was capped off with a bowl victory at the end of the season, and McCallum was there to see what the cameras caught and what they didn’t.
“When I go to town people will say, ‘I saw you on Last Chance U,’ and they will ask me about the coaches and the players and stuff,” he said. “It felt really good to see myself on TV, it made me feel like a real movie star.”
Recruited by head coach Jason Brown, who was self-proclaimed as one of the top recruiting coaches in the country, McCallum came to Independence being told by Brown that he would see the field during the season. McCallum practiced with the starters and the players that would dress for games, but was redshirted and was reserved for only practices the entire season.
“He (Brown) was telling us that he wasn’t going to redshirt me and that I was going to play,” McCallum said. “I didn’t have a problem with being a redshirt, but my daddy had a problem with it because he told us I wasn’t going to be a redshirt. As the season went on, he was practicing with the starters, but I was never getting in.”
After the season was over, McCallum was back in Lumberton.
While there, the cameras caught McCallum on camera with a number of cameo, but his longest stretch of camera time came for him on episode two after fellow receiver Carlos Thompson gave a speech to the team to let the them know he was going to take a bigger leadership role as one of the oldest players on the roster. The 22-year-old Texas Tech transfer was someone McCallum formed a close bond with in Kansas.
“Carlos was like an on-the-field coach. He taught me how to run the routes better and catch the ball better,” McCallum said. “He helped me out in the classroom too.”
Thompson signed with Division II Missouri Western.
McCallum also said he formed friendships with other offensive players the show highlighted like Rakeem Boyd, who signed with Arkansas after the season. Florida State transfer and former No. 1 quarterback out of high school Malik Henry was a polarizing player portrayed on the show for his clashes with the coaches, and on-the-field demeanor, but McCallum said there was more to him.
“Malik was actually a good person,” McCallum said. “When the coaches would get onto him, it would get in his head, and he would take it out on everybody else.”
Like Henry, Brown’s foul language and scolding of players drew mixed reviews from viewers, and while McCallum never was on the wrong end of Brown’s temper, he did respect what went on after when the cameras weren’t necessarily watching.
“Sometimes he got out of hand with his words, cussing at you and stuff,” McCallum said. “He would apologize after he cussed you out. It wouldn’t mean to do it; he was just taking his anger out. He’s actually a good person.”
Brown came to the program known for turning around other junior college football teams at his previous stops, and McCallum saw his coaching expertise first hand.
“He’s the best coach in Kansas,” McCallum said.
While McCallum’s stay in Kansas was short-lived and did not include a down on the field in a game, the relationships he forged there in the small town in the middle of nowhere was something he won’t forget.
“I enjoyed it. Even though I wasn’t playing, the players made it worth it for me to be there,” McCallum said. “It was good to be with the coaches and players that were the stars. They made me better as a person when I was hanging with them on and off the cameras.”
“Last Chance U” recently announced it will return to Independence Community College for season four. McCallum is currently a student at Sandhills Community College and is looking at transferring to a Division I school to play football.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.