How did FSU ever put its faith in ‘Last Chance U’ quarterback?


There’s a scene early in this year’s “Last Chance U” documentary on Netflix where quarterback Malik Henry walks up to the Independence (Kan.) Community College coach in the middle of the first game and says, “Let me call the plays.”

The very first game of the season. His very first game as a starting college quarterback. And Henry is telling the play-calling head coach that he should be the offensive coordinator instead.

This is just the first of many scenes in the eight-part series where Henry is seemingly in open revolt against coach Jason Brown, who doesn’t exactly command respect from the former five-star Florida State recruit.

There are too many instances to list here. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how former FSU coach Jimbo Fisher ever thought it was going to work with Henry.

Imagine, for instance, that kind of scene playing out on an FSU sideline. Fisher’s offense is in the middle of a crisp, efficient drive. The Seminoles burn a timeout before a critical third-down play. Henry jogs off the field and tells Fisher, “Let me call the plays.”

Fisher might have donkey-kicked him. Or maybe just ripped the facemask off Henry’s helmet. Or screamed so loudly that every high school in the country would have heard it.

But there would have been an immediate and visceral reaction. And it would have been ugly.

That was easily my biggest takeaway after watching this season’s “Last Chance U,” which stars a former Florida State quarterback for the third straight season (following John Franklin III in 2016 and De’Andre Johnson in 2017). After watching how Henry interacts with teammates, opponents, referees, coaches, trainers and teachers, I can’t fathom how Fisher imagined his time in Tallahassee was going to go.

He knew all the red flags. He had been recruiting Henry for three years.

And yet.

Fisher stuck with a player who was such a malcontent at Independence that at one point in the documentary, the coach tells the backup quarterback to always be ready to play. Why? Because you never know if Henry is going to turn around and throw the ball in the referee’s face.

That is literally what Brown said.

And that’s just one of many incredible scenes. During one game, Henry was warned twice about using the N-word, and an official threatened to eject Henry if he heard it again. So the quarterback told the official to go (expletive) himself — which, incredibly, didn’t lead to an ejection.

Junior college football is different, folks.

Now, this isn’t just a column to slam Malik Henry. We know his story. We know he was suspended the first week of fall camp at FSU for a “violation of team rules” and then left the school after his freshman season without playing a down.

And, hey, at least he went to Independence to try to make his way back to big-time college football. And he does have some nice moments in “Last Chance U,” especially when he’s trying to coach up his receivers and fellow quarterbacks.

But he also got into screaming matches with the offensive line coach and the receivers coach. And what was telling, to me, was that none of the coaches had anything positive to say about him — or to him — in any of the episodes.

Henry continually ripped his head coach to any teammate who would listen. Not that you could blame him in some instances — Brown curses like he’s trying out for “Deadwood” and comes completely unhinged about 80 percent of the time. The funniest/worst part of the show was when he screamed at his team for pointing fingers after a tough loss — and then blamed the loss entirely on one player.

So, in that regard, I understand why Henry might have felt he was above this program. This team. This town. This coach. But the truth of the matter was: He isn’t. He played an entire season of junior college football and apparently didn’t get a single Division I offer.

And again, the intent here isn’t to rip a clearly troubled kid. Or his hustler of a head coach. Or even his overbearing father, who clues us all in on how Malik became Malik.

It’s to just express bewilderment at Fisher’s decision to recruit him in the first place.

He was the only quarterback Florida State signed in the 2016 class — back when Fisher should have been able to sign virtually any QB he wanted.

I know Fisher was enamored with the talent. (A lot of fans were, too, when they saw Henry in the 2016 spring game.) And I guess Fisher assumed he could mold Henry into someone who could actually play for him. But that gamble failed miserably. Spectacularly.

Henry couldn’t make it through one season.

As we all know, it takes a pretty unique personality to put up with Fisher’s coaching style. And it’s fair to note that Henry obviously had more respect for Fisher than for his junior college coach.

Just not enough to stay on Fisher’s football team.

And now he’s wondering if he’ll ever get another chance at a Power 5 school.

After watching a full season of “Last Chance U” — or even just one episode — I imagine most Division I coaches wouldn’t want the former five-star recruit anywhere near their football teams.

Meanwhile, most FSU fans will never be able to comprehend how their former coach actually thought Henry could be the future of the program.



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