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Real Talk Season 2 Episode 12: Last Chance U Star and Laney College Head Coach John Beam

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

For our our season finale of Real Talk With QB Velocity we were fortunate to talk with Coach Beam!

As you may recognize Coach Beam from Netflix's "Last Chance U" season 5, he has been a football coach since 1979 and has played a big part in developing many college and NFL athletes. Some of the players he has coached include CJ Anderson , Davone Bess and Marvel Smith.

When we talk to coach , we talked about a variety of topic including Last Chance U, social justice and what athletes should focus on for development.

Check out the full podcast on YouTube, Apple , Spotify or anywhere else you listen to podcasts!

What the main part about Laney college and Last chance U didn’t portray??

“I don't know, maybe my sense of humor, I’m a funny guy and did you guys see my dance moves ? You know one of the things that I think that probably I wish they showed better was that every Thursday we would bring in guest speakers and talk about real life things for our guys, most of these speakers are black or brown men just like they are."

"One was about mental health, one was NFL player, who talked about being sexually abused as a young kid, had another guy come in who played for me and was a rose bowl guy but he talked about having dyslexia, about having to ask for help and learn to adjust to a learning disability. It’s about showing it’s okay to be vulnerable, everyone has things going on and it’s okay to ask for help."

"So I don’t know if it showed that but I wish it would have. One man talked about, he’s written three books and talks about the first time he had a gun pointed at him, he grew up in Oakland and was a black male but that first time a gun was pointed at his head was by a police officer. All this was happening before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the show came out and we were already talking about it. Social justice is huge for me and i don’t know if you can tell or not and I was also big on what I see what football and athletics can do for young men with social justice. It shows there avenues outside of the community and expand yourself and leave."

"You can meet different people and get a different perspective on what life is outside of Oakland. So again i don’t know if it showed that but it’s one of those things I have always felt really strong about. When I was at skyline, coaching for 22 years, I took a kid to a game in Hawaii, I took him to Vegas, to LA. I took him places that would be out of the norm for him. We try to fly once a year because most of them have never flown before."

How was having all the camera men and Last Chance U producers always around and following you?

“It’s hard to gage, I’m sure there was definitely that played into it but think about this. First week was definitely a problem, you have 30 people there as soon as I walk in the door. There was a sound guy giving me a mic, this is real production, these mics were like 15,000 dollars each and the cameras are 100,000 dollars these are professionals. They are their 6 days a week, 7 hours a day."

"After the first week they become part of your family, or you just get use to it. One of the things we talked about early on about how the kids would be in front of the camera the producer today pointed out that young people are in front of cameras all the time. They are always taking their phones out to record something."

"So it’s not as unique but what’s unique is that there’s people who are a part of your team and a part of your family then towards the end they are a part of your family and a part of your team. That Transformation occurs, and they start telling you their life stories and you tell them your stories.”

Did the show exaggerates RJ situation?

“The thing is, RJ had scholarship offers, he just didn’t like them so that’s why he was calling more people. What RJ struggled with is he had a clock issue and I kept saying you won’t be able to go D1 because you have a clock issue and he kept saying he can because he could get a petition and appeal it. Yeah but no ones going to do that for you. I told him take the D2 offer and be able to go play now."

"We didn’t know this pandemic would hit and all that. The point was to leave now and go play, this whole notion you have to be a D1 player. Guess what guys from D2 go to the NFL, guys from NEI go too. We had a guy 2 years ago who last year was in the Eagles training camp and he was a NEI guy for us. He had to there because of grades but he was an all American tight-end for me. Just go and do what you have to do, don’t worry about the label but RJ was stuck on that."

"It wasn’t that I stopped helping him but why would I keep calling if you already have one, and at the time he said he was going to take it I didn’t know he was going to change his mind. By then we were in a pandemic lockdown so I didn’t see him. The biggest thing with RJ is, it’s not greener in the other pasture if you can go to a school, no matter what level it is and get targeted 8-12 times a game, who are you to care what level it is? He just wants the ball in his hands, we couldn’t throw the ball to him this year, we had a QB situation, in the show they don’t show these conversations but I told him he doesn’t run good routes and be where your supposed to be."

"Your a good player, no one works harder than you no doubt and you have the skill set. But how is a young QB who is struggle going to know where your going to be if your all over the place. Second I don’t tell the QB where to throw the ball, he does that based on what he reads or whatever. Yes you might be open, probably should have thrown it to you but I can’t tell him to throw it to you in the middle of the game. And if you saw us struggling to throw the ball last year, go back a year earlier in 2018 we had a guy with 60 catches, 50 catches, 40 catches , 30 catches right, the QB who is starting at San Diego State now and giving the ball to everyone on the team."

"Now it’s a little bit different of a situation and I think RJ realized that towards the end. The camera didn’t help there either, he wants to look good for them. He wants to make sure he gets to the position where he can go after his dreams and I get that but what I was trying to explain it doesn’t matter where you go. Just ball out."

What was the QB situation like?

“Who would have thought we would have had 3 QBs get hurt, one thing for us we don’t want a ton of QBs on our roster. We like to have 3 possible 4 at the most. We want them to be able to get enough reps, I don’t want to have 6 QBs and some never get any playing time. I want to make sure we can develop them."

"We want to have a starter, a backup, a shirt and maybe a red shirt or Grey shirt at the most. So that’s what we did and they got hurt. Now your like oh snap what are we going to do, so with him playing QB in higschool gave us the best chance to win and he knew the offense the best where he could pick it up fast. We had to tailor the offense to what his strengths were and we did. Now everyone goes coach that was a great but remember I was a high school coach for 22 years, trust me you have to figure that same situation out many times. Take the best athlete and put him as QB, you don’t have time to develop these guys."

"You have to put the best athlete at that position and understand the offense. Also let’s be honest they are selfless, that puts the team success before himself. Dior did that perfectly, he knew the offense, he had been a QB and most important he put the team number one. He wasn’t an I guy.

How are all the guys doing from the show?

“I talk to them all, I talk to most of my players all the time. Dior is doing great in Hawaii, he’s struggling getting on the field. He’s doing some punt returns, he’s backing up Jared smart our other recover there who is nasty. It’s tough he wants to be on the field, but coach is noticing him and he’s doing well In school which is really important . Ray is doing great in school, wishes he could get on the field, his brother is killing it. Oregon state has a big win over Oregon this week, ray is hopefully getting on the field this week. RJ because he didn’t take the D2 at the end it looks like he’s set to transfer to CAL, and hopefully walk on for his last year."

What’s next for Laney ?

“Hawaii, my game plan keeps changing everyday and every week so no football in the fall. The goal is in January with a 8 game season, we’re definitely not doing 8, doesn’t look like we’re playing in January so what we are looking at now is doing padded spring ball in March, April or may. 15 days in pads so people can see the kids in pads, so college coaches can see us scrimmage each other to help them get recruited. Also so kids can warm up the pads so they are not as rusty when we do start next year hopefully."

"At least we can start getting our bodies ready to play at a high level. It was really bad because we felt like we had a good team coming back right, we had to play all freshman and now they were a year older. We going to have two 6’4 tackles, 6’3 guards , running back coming back and a QB coming back. We almost had everyone back."

What has it been like to be able to produce so much NFL talent and college talent ?

“ It’s fun, but it’s the Journey you get to see on how they transform through this journey. Just like when I was at the Highschool and coaching, I always taught sophomores, we started school at 10th grade. You see these kids come in, these gangly kids, the girls are bigger than the guys, they haven’t hit puberty yet basically. Then you see them at the senior bowl and it’s like the ugly duck blossom. To see a kid first starting out and learning how to play and working and now you see them in the NFL. My god, this journey you have been on and I got to be apart of this incredible journey.”

What are some things that helped your progress as a coach ?

“You know I have been really blessed to be able to meet with some of the best coaches in college and NFL and learn from them. I have always surrounded myself with really good assistant coaches or just good people. Some of them were not even football coaches, you just turn them into football coaches. Mike March was the OC when I was at JC and I learned from him."

"Many coaches through all levels. One of the advantages of having so many D1 players, they ask you to speak for them or about them. If you came to recruit at a school I was coaching I would make you give me something, you have to show me something that you do. Tell me about how you run zones, I’m going to let you talk to my players but you have to give me something too. That allows you to grow your own library of knowledge. I go to the coaches convention right, and you can walk mostly to anyone and ask them questions about what they do and I can expose my coaches to these guys and their knowledge."

"Even when my players were playing in college or the NFL they would come back and show me stuff. Just having the ability to learn from so many people because I had access because I had athletes they wanted to meet."

Old school football to the new way of doing football ?

“When I first became the head coach at skyline, you would get VHS tape of the game and you break it down. Now I can go on my iPad and pull up any play I want, all first down plays if I needed too. Today coaching is easy haha you got all the information right there. You are watching film I can go back and forth, I can pull that clip and put a spotlight on you and send it to you. We didn’t have that before!"

"My second year coaching at skyline we went 10-0, we had 5 D1 players on that team. I coached the running backs, the QBs and the linebackers, my other buddy coached the WR and DBs and my other buddy was the DC and coached the linemen on both sides. That was it, I did punt team and it was just three coaches. Now I have 3 coaches to coach one position. So again coaching is easy now, now I got coaches for every job possible. So you don’t wear as many hats as you use too.”

If you could go back to a younger version of yourself what would you say ?

“Patience, I must have failed kindergarten because I don’t share well but I don’t know I don’t have any regrets. At the end of the day, I did what I did and I’m happy where I’m at now. So yeah there could be a lot of things I could change but why? It turned out okay. I don’t want to live in the past, I want to use some of it to help fuel me to be a better person or coach but I don’t want to dwell on it.”

What are some things athletes in middle school, high school and college should focus on to help their development ?

“So as a middle schooler it would be a multi sport athlete, don’t start specializing in just one sport. Play everything. First it rest muscles, you use a certain group of muscles for each sport you do. So that helps not over using certain muscle groups. So look at all these kids getting Tommy John surgery at such a young age. But when I played you didn’t get that because you played other sports so there was a rest period for your arm."

"For high school would be as you develop, don’t have regrets at the end of the day, make sure you are putting in the effort you want to get out of it. If you want to be a D1 athlete, you need to put in division one effort in. That means in the classroom and in the weight room or whatever it is. We always think we are working hard but you can always work harder look at that.”

How have you dealt with the increase of fame and popularity from Last Chance U and being Under national spotlight ?

“So, number 1 remember I am already famous, you like that one. I have been in Oakland for so long on people walking would go hey coach you know. The fame of last chance U is new but we have dealt with COVID-19 so they have to figure out who I am wearing a mask.“

”There has been sometimes my granddaughter and I have been walking to she’s almost a year so we walk to this golf course everyday its about 3 miles round trip. Early on during the pandemic you know the golf course closed so we would count the deer and turkeys running around the golf course. So when the golf course opened up and Last Chance U we added another category to count groupies. So, we had turkey the deer and then groupies like Hey coach B! or something. So that’s different but I don’t know how it’s going to be though since the show came out, we have been in the pandemic.“

”I didn’t even know there was this many podcasts in America. I was on a podcast right before you guys that was 45 minutes so I didn’t realize that much. I didn’t realize access Hollywood would think it was great to interview me it was the Kardashians and Coach B I could see the similarities.”

”I was on a full page about Last Chance U myself and my program and I was like wow that’s impressive. That but of it was interesting that so many people thought the show resonated with them it wasn’t really just a football show it was about life, mental health, social justice before it even came about but I tell people that’s been my life I have been doing it for 40 years your just seeing it for the first time.“

“I joke around Oakland if you walk around with me and everyone would know who I am. So I'm not really going anywhere else but Oakland so if I go to Massachusetts maybe they will know me now. I have been getting all these fans or Instagram reach outs from all over the world, Brazil, Poland, Ireland, England you name it. So its been interesting, 14 million people saw the show like that’s a lot of people and its worldwide I use to joke at the show your on national tv act like it. The producers would go no coach its worldwide and I go yeah okay. But really it was.“

How do you think the show helped Laney college ?

“It has been but again because of covid we cant really quantify it. We don’t take out of state kids really we don’t have housing for them, if we did I would have 200 out of state kids playing I just turned them down I cant. If they are a big time player like SEC caliber we will maybe help find housing but a studio is $1,800 here.“

”Pay that on top of out of state fees, where as California kids go for free. Its funny last week I did a talk for the career and technology people they had an open house and wanted me to be a guest speaker on their open house. I go yeah sure Ill do it.“

This season for Last Chance U it was more than just football ?

“I think some did and some wanted football some watch the show to watch football it wasn’t hard knocks though. I mean everyone talks about you’re the star of the show and I would say Oakland is the star. It really highlighted the shine and the struggle of what Oakland is going through. Oakland is going through it just like Detroit Chicago other places right so maybe it resonated with folks especially with what's happened since than Brionna Taylor George Floyd and all of the different things that have occurred you know it put another piece to that.“

”You see eight hours of film they filmed for two and a months 6 days a week for 7 hours a day to come up with 8 hours. So they could have done more I guess about the social justice but I thinks it was good talking about PTSD I see it in inner cities all the time I think its not talked about but I think there’s a lot of emotional struggle that come with the violence young men and women see.“

How were you able to create a winning culture in Oakland?

”I don’t label kids. When I went to Boston I went there twice I snuck into Fenway got caught but they let me take a picture with the Coke bottle. When I went there for a track meet my coach was black the four girls were black and we went to go eat around the Copley center so we go to eat every restaurant we went to said they couldn’t seat us really I look and there's a lot of big white parties but they couldn’t seat us. Then when we finally did get in a restaurant they wouldn’t give us all the silverware wouldn’t give us rolls just really rude to us.“

”Then I went over to Roxbury and how we were treated was totally different a guy offered to give me a ride to the airport didn’t know me just heard me struggling to try to figure out to get to the airport. So what I'm saying the Oakland Roxbury kid given a label by the outside world without knowing about the city itself. What I would say when you were young in high school you had more in common with the kids I was coaching than you think.“

”Now what you didn’t have in common was where you lived, maybe not having both parents, and they might have had food insecurities but they were still struggling being 14-16 liking girls or not liking them yet, school was a struggle whatever home life was tough those are similarities. If you start looking at those similarities, we got more in common than we have more indifferent but we don’t see that.“

“We see color we see social economic dollar signs instead of looking at what we have in similarities. So, the culture that I changed was to say look you are a winner already, lets go do this. In fact, we played all the rich private schools we played them, and beat them. I went to the rich suburban school too and beat them. Then I would take our kids to dinner and they would say oh your kids behaved so well and I say why did you expect something differently?“

”My kids behaved with the expectations I gave them right this is how we are going to eat, this is what we are going to do, this is how we are going to act. The kids have no problem with that I told them the standard and they lived up to the standard but I always thought those were backhand comments. I took the team to Hawaii and we were staying at the hotel with Beverly Hills and a couple rich schools and their kids were a fool running all around.“

”People gave us free stuff like we love your team we want you to come back all the time. Our kids had this great expectation the kids from the other school have been to Hawaii, our kids have never been on a plane. They embraced the trip to Hawaii like you wouldn’t believe being in the ocean for the first-time seeing coconut trees, they were fired up. So I was glad I gave them that experience and they can go back with their family now and they will new expectations for their kids.”

“So, number one thing was I didn’t have limitations on kids I coach you can go to college you can graduate high school you can be a star, whatever a star means to you.

Any hobbies?

“Number 1 right now I love being with my granddaughter she’s almost a year old. People don’t know that I am a certified diver I dove the great barrier reef, I dive Hawaii, I sky dived, I want to try everything once. I tell the kids don’t put limitations on yourself so you’ll see me riding this little Segway during the show once. The camera man was riding it and I thought I could do that but the kids said coach you can’t do that why do you think you can do everything.“

”Just like when they dance, I pretend I can dance they say I can’t but I can in my mind. The point is I like to try different things I am a family man. I want to be in the ocean as much as possible but with COVID-19 you can’t but I kayak I scuba dive I snorkel. I don’t play golf but I go once a year with my buddies I grew up with all I got to do is win one hole and I win the whole round they get pissed. I don’t know if you can tell but I’m ultra-competitive.”

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