JuCo products: the route to division one football that is often overlooked

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Kellen Hornbuckle

Pleasant Valley football players Kellen Hornbuckle and Matt Mickle on a visit at Iowa Western

Michael VanDerSchaaf, Sports Editor

Every year, high school football players from across the country commit to play at colleges across the nation. Often faced with the challenge of picking the right level, many athletes are finding junior college to be the best fit.

College football at the junior college level is very different than it would be at four-year universities. Junior college — or “JuCo” — prepares athletes to take their talents to the national stage after spending a year or two at this level, while 4-year universities feed directly into the professional level

Iowa Western Community College is a prime example of this. The Reivers compete in Division I (DI) of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and currently have 45 former players competing at the DI level of the NCAA. Pleasant Valley senior Kellen Hornbuckle recently announced his commitment to continue his football career at Iowa Western. 

Hornbuckle believes he found the best fit considering the unconventional circumstances that this year presented. “I think the JuCo route was the best fit for me because this year was a crazy year and I didn’t get to do a lot of things I wanted to do. I didn’t get to go to camps over the summer or get in front of any coaches at all,” explained Hornbuckle.

Many athletes find themselves possessing the size and strength of a division one athlete but do not have the stats or opportunities to be recruited as a division one player. Hornbuckle, for example, is a vertical pass-catching threat. However, PV is a run-first team, which let other tight ends throughout the state have more opportunities for yards and touchdowns.

Senior Ryan Mumey, who has an offer from Iowa Western for football, sees the benefits of playing at the JuCo level. “I think JuCo can definitely be a better route for some athletes. It gives kids the opportunity to go to a school for 2 years where they can get better at their sport and get stronger, and then possibly even get recruited at the D1 level while they are at the JuCo,” said Mumey.

Hornbuckle also praises the benefits that JuCo football brings, seeing it as an opportunity that many athletes do not get at divisions II and III. “I do think that JuCo can be a better route than D2 or D3 for some athletes if they live in a place that doesn’t get heavily recruited or they live in a very small town somewhere. It just depends on the athlete but I believe that JuCo, in some cases, can be a better option.”

“For many JuCo players, there is a common goal: playing on a more competitive level. This creates a competitive and hard-working environment. For athletes like Hornbuckle and Mumey, JuCo football is a path that could potentially lead them to a college football legacy in a few years.