In the past, Junior & Community Colleges (JUCO) have proven to be great pathways to NCAA Division 1 schools. They have cultivated and produced some of the most well-known national champions, current world-class athletes, and future hall of famers. In this blog, we take a look at some of the most successful athletes who have opted to take the Junior College route through their student-athlete career.
South African Olympian Bradley Tandy swam at Indian River State College, a National Junior College in Fort Pierce, Florida, before breaking records as an Arizona Wildcat in the PAC-12 conference. Indian River is known for producing outstanding swimmers who have become superstars in top programs in the first and second divisions of the NCAA, and this was the trajectory of Tandy's career.
While at Indian River, Tandy set school records in the 50 freestyle (19.06) and the 100 freestyle (42.76) and contributed to school records in the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. Tandy's four Indian River school records were also NJCAA records.
In 2014, as a member of the University of Arizona swimming team, Tandy became the National Champion in the 50 Freestyle at the NCAA Championship. Tandy is still the record holder of the 50 freestyle at the University of Arizona, with a blitz time of 18.80.
Tandy’s talent has also paved the way for him to represent South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he finished sixth with Brazilian swimmer Bruno Fratus in the 50 freestyle. At the 2016 FINA World Championships in Windsor, Canada, Tandy, Chad le Clos, Douglas Erasmus and Eben Vorster jointly set a new South African and African record in the 4 x 50 short course freestyle relay.
Why Do People Go The Junior College Route?
Along the way to major college sport or professional greatness, plenty of athletes have made stops in junior college, and for a variety of reasons.
Some students go to JUCO to prove that they deserve big scholarships. Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl and NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer, attended Butte Community College before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, as only Illinois proposed Rodgers to be a walk-on athlete out of high school. Rodgers declined and took it upon himself to prove himself worthy of scholarship standards.
Many students go to Junior Colleges to straighten out their academics. LeGarrette Blount, a two-time Super Bowl winning running back with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, signed with Auburn in 2006 but did not qualify academically. He then went on to become one of the top JUCO runners at East Mississippi Community College by 2008 before attending Oregon. Before being drafted as a wide receiver by the Jacksonville Jaguars after being a Heisman finalist in Oklahoma, Dede Westbrook was forced to attend Blinn Junior College after an SAT mishap.
Injuries often force students to go to JUCO and rebuild. Alvin Kamara, running back for the New Orleans Saints, was injured and then buried on the depth chart in Alabama. After performing well at Hutchinson Community College and later on in Tennessee, he became an outstanding rookie for the Saints.
Cam Newton is probably the player with the best-known JUCO career. Newton was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2015 after he led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl. Before winning the Heisman Trophy, becoming the best player in college football, and helming a miracle run to a national championship at Auburn, he won the national JUCO title at Blinn Community College. Before all of that, there was the time he bought a stolen laptop at Florida, and was kicked out of the team.
There are many reasons why student athletes can go to a junior or community college. Whatever the reason, there is always the opportunity to enter a top sports university, participate in high-level competitions, earn their degree, and even turn professional.
Last week, we talked about Jimmy Butler, NBA All-Star and former Junior College student-athlete. Watch the Thursday Chat on our Instagram here.
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