Who is John Beam? 5 facts to know about the new ‘Last Chance U’ coach

Netflix’s documentary series is focusing on Laney College in Season 5 of “Last Chance U,” which means coach John Beam is brought into the national spotlight.

Beam is a Hall of Fame football coach who should be a bit of a departure from the coaches we’ve already seen on the program. Of course it’s difficult for anyone to match the intensity of Coach Jason Brown from Season 3 and 4, but Beam will especially be a change of pace for viewers.

Beam has been coaching for a long time, starting in 1979 at Serra High School in San Diego as an offensive line coach. He eventually moved to Skyline High School where he became the head football coach in 1987. During his time at Skyline, Beam won 15 league championships, 11 section championships and had four undefeated seasons. He finished with a 160-33-3 record at Skyline.

He started at Laney in 2004 as a running backs coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator the following season. He became Laney’s head coach in 2012 and has maintained a .600 career winning percentage while in charge.

MORE: Where are the star players of Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U’ now?

We’ll break down five interesting facts about Beam below.

1. John Beam sent 100+ players to the D1 level as a high school coach

We already discussed Beam’s time as a high school coach above, but this truly shows just how great he was at developing talent. According to Laney Athletics’ website, Beam “produced more Division 1 players than anyone else in Northern California.” Laney Athletics estimates that number to be over 100.

In an article about his departure from Skyline High School, the East Bay Times explained just how important Beam was to the program.

Devastated by the crack epidemic that swept through American cities in the 1980s, Oakland was treated with a 10-foot pole by many college recruiters. But the success Beam had at Skyline — he had more than 70 players earn scholarships to Division I or Division I-AA schools — showed the talent was still there.

Beam raised the bar and everybody in Oakland benefited.

Speaking to the San Francisco Gate, Beam talked about leaving Skyline.

“A lot of people talked about me raising the bar for the young people (whom) I coached, but I got just as much back from them,” Beam said. “I just see it as a natural progression to go from Skyline to Laney since you’re serving the same community.”

2. He’s produced over 20 players that made in to the NFL

Laney Athletics says that number is between his time at the college and also at Skyline High School. Some notable names include former Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, former Steelers Pro Bowl tackle Marvel Smith and former Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore. Seven of his players have participated in the Super Bowl, including Anderson and Moore.

In an older interview with the NFL, Beam explained what he looks for when developing talent. He explained that he wants the player to have a strong work ethic, be a competitor and have fun.

“I want to see if the athlete is a competitor,” Beam said. “I want to know if he’s looking for the easy way out or is looking for challenges. This is both in the classroom and on the field. Does the athlete want to be number 1? Will he or she take on the biggest hurdle and attempt to jump it? I don’t care if he doesn’t make it but I want to see if he attempts to jump it, because then we can work on ways to improve it.”

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3. He has a 90% graduation and transfer rate at Laney College

That’s an incredibly high percentage, and something Beam has said he’s proud of in the past. During his NFL interview, Beam explained what made a successful high school football student-athlete on and off the field.

“The ultimate measure of success for me is that the student graduate high school. What an accomplishment,” Beam said. “It started when you were six or seven years old and expanded over the next 13 years of your life and you completed it by staying the course, going to class, completing assignments, surrounding yourself with positive people, making a contribution at your school, both on the field and in the classroom, dealing with the hurdles by asking for help, re-setting your goals, etc.! So complete that goal. That’s a success – especially in the communities that I work in, where 50% of the young males of color drop out of high school every year.”

4. His players win everywhere

As Laney Athletics pointed out, Beam has produced winning talent all around. We already talked about his 20 NFL players and 100+ Division 1 players, but he also produces winners. According to Laney, Beam has produced a winner in the NCAA Division 1 National Championship, NCAA Division 3 National Championship, Canadian Grey Cup, NFL Europe Championship, Arena League Championship and the Super Bowl.

5. He went the extra mile, even for players who weren’t his

According to The Times Herald, Beam really made an effort for the players in his community.

With all due respect to anyone associated with the Raiders, the godfather of football in Oakland is John Beam, the head football coach and athletic director at Laney. For nearly 40 years — 22 years at Skyline High, 16 at Laney — Beam has probably been the biggest football booster the city has known. In many cases, those efforts were probably unknown.

For years, Beam worked behind the scenes to make sure Oakland high school kids got their just due. He’d call newspaper reporters to push for players to be considered for postseason honors, figuring the added exposure may just help them earn a scholarship. In almost every case, those Oakland kids didn’t even play for him.

Beam is proud to represent Oakland and wants to see the players from the area shine. 

“How many NFL players and NBA players have come out of this city of 400,000? A lot. Why is that? We think Oakland is special. And I hope that’s how (“Last Chance U”) portrays our city,” Beam told The Mercury News.

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