‘Last Chance’ celebrity speaks to Riverhawks


Alexandra Radovic

“Last Chance U’s” Brittany Wagner comes to campus.

Alexandra Radovic and Tommy Parker

“Last Chance U” star Brittany Wagner gripped a pencil in her left hand and a microphone in her right as she spoke to AACC faculty and students in Jenkins Gymnasium on Nov. 27.

“An opportunity is like a pencil,” Wagner said. “There is no value in it until you put forth effort.”

This is the goal behind Wagner’s company, 10 Thousand Pencils, which offers life coaching, academic evaluations, athletic counseling and motivational speaking for student athletes and colleges.

Wagner started working as an academic adviser for athletes at East Mississippi Community College in 2009, after graduating from Mississippi State in 2004. She starred for two years on the Netflix docuseries about EMCC’s football team.

“We’re all human beings, we all have our own story and that’s what makes us beautiful,” said Wagner, who talked about transforming community college athletes into better students.

She said her position helping students at the college was greatly inspired by her personal struggle to get into college and find her sense of direction.

After declaring her major in sports communication, Wagner said her academic adviser told her she would never make it in the field because she’s a woman.

“I said, ‘All the more reason to do it,’” Wagner said.

According to Wagner, who worked with AACC Athletics for two days in November to train the college’s new Student Success Coordinator Trey Anderson, students here should value the opportunities life gives them, as she and the EMCC student athletes have.

Wagner, who started filming “Last Chance U” with $7 in her bank account, said she used her career helping college athletes as an opportunity to build a better life for herself and her students.

She said as she started to see hope for her own future, most of her students “didn’t even know what [hope] looked like.”

“It’s a lot harder to be likeable toward people that are different,” Wagner said when retelling some of her students’ personal stories.

She described one student athlete who was homeless, lived in a laundromat and depended on the school’s food and showers to get him through the day.

After sharing his struggle with his team, and not being afraid to ask for help, Wagner said she noticed a major shift in his and the team’s lives.

“That team had won zero games” before the student shared his story and discovered “the people around you are the people that have your back,” she said.

Another student, Denico Autry, went through a life trauma that kept him from going to elementary school during a time when the rest of his fourth-grade class learned to divide.

Autry is now a defensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts because, in part, of how Wagner guided him through his college career and told him not to give up on school.

“You need to know what to do when you’re thrown a curve ball,” Wagner said.

Although her students came from inner-city neighborhoods, Wagner said those who attend AACC are just as likely to need help dealing with the curve balls as they balance academics with their athletics.

“I think it’s easy for athletes to get lost in the shuffle,” Wagner said. “Sometimes when you have as many resources as [AACC has] there are too many hands in a pot. … Sometimes we have to let our egos go and make it about what is really best for the student.”

Anderson said he looks forward to following this example as the new student success coordinator, who will advise student-athletes, as Wagner does.

“The biggest thing is sticking to the motto, ‘Develop, discipline, dominate,’” Anderson said. “[I want] to increase our department GPA.”

Student athletes who attended the hour-long presentation said they share the same goal and are excited about the new position.

“It’s very motivating,” first-year transfer studies student and Men’s Lacrosse attackman Rahsaan Johnson said. “It makes me want to do more in the classroom and on the field. … [AACC athletes] aren’t very strong academically.”

“Student athletes … are very lucky to have this position here,” AACC Athletics Director Duane Herr said. “[Wagner] has made a name for herself for doing just what Trey has been brought here to do … making an impact on student athletes through academic counseling, advising, mentoring and career counseling.”

“It’s very interesting and very inspiring,” Baseball catcher Ryan Key, a second-year transfer studies student, said. “The position will definitely be beneficial.”