Soft-Spoken Mehki Sargent Preparing to Make Noise for Hawkeyes

August 13, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Last Chance U is one of the most highly-watched sports shows on Netflix. The latest season features Independence (KS) Community College’s 2017 season.

The Pirates opened the campaign with a game playing host to Iowa Western Community College, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Reivers rolled the home team, 70-21.

Iowa Western running back Mehki Sargent showed up prominently in the first episode of the series, which debuted last month. The former Key West (FL) high standout rumbled for 170 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in the contest.

For Sargent, who’s spent his athletic life under the radar, it felt good being recognized. Text messages flooded his phone. Friends and family told him that the defensive back for Independence wanted no part of his physical running style.

“I never imagined myself on (Netflix), so I was excited. It felt good to hear that, too,” Sargent told HN.

He enjoyed a breakout year for the Reivers, finishing the year with 1,449 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on 205 attempts. He caught 12 passes for 91 yards and two more scores on his way to first-team JUCO all-American honors. He was the co-offensive player of the year nationally at that level.

He parlayed that success into an Iowa scholarship offer. He committed to the Hawkeyes and joined the program this summer.

Sargent talks a lot about how fortunate he feels. He comes from an island known more for its sunsets than its football. His high school team travels over three hours each way for every road game on the main land of Florida. It plays 5A schools in Miami and Fort Lauderdale despite being the size of a 2A in attendance.

College scouts don’t make that drive down through the Keys on the recruiting trail. They stop at Miami.

Sargent didn’t receive attention from the big schools so he decided on Iowa Western, one of the nation’s top JUCO programs. When he traveled to Council Bluffs on his visit, it was his first trip to the Midwest and first time on a plane.

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“Coming out of high school, I was under recruited. There’s not a lot of guys that come out of there. I wanted more for myself and I knew that I could do better, so I took the junior college route,” Sargent said.

Like Iowa, Iowa Western is a no-nonsense program built on hard work. Sargent realized quickly it was the place for him.

“I got there and I knew from Day 1 that I would have to work my tail off to get to where I wanted to be. I was very thankful to be there and I’m very thankful to be here,” he said.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell noticed Sargent while scouting the Reivers last year. Iowa began building a relationship with him. Once it was determined that Toks Akinribade would be lost for medical reasons, the Hawkeyes had a hole to fill at running back.

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Sargent enrolled during June and took part in summer workouts. He was received with open arms by fellow sophomore running backs Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.

“When I got here there was a warm welcome. We love to compete. Our job is to compete with each other, get each other better every day. We’ve been doing a really good job at that. We all have different styles but I think we all can get the job done,” Sargent said.

Sargent (5-10, 210) describes himself as a downhill runner and he showed that during Saturday’s Kids Day practice at Kinnick Stadium. His unofficial numbers, per Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, were 12 carries for 67 yards and a score. He powered his way into the end zone. He also looked good in the passing game, making a nice catch on a ball from Peyton Mansell.

“He’s shifty. He has good ball skills. He’s doing a really good job of running between tackles. His vision has been phenomenal for us and he competes. He’s a hard worker. He’s very coachable, too, which you appreciate. He’s a high-character kid that you love to be around,” Iowa running backs coach Derrick Foster said.

Iowa Western practiced in the mornings like the Hawkeyes and utilized a similar schedule. It’s helped with Sargent’s transition.

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“There’s been a learning curve, but I think I’m doing a really good job with it. It’s going at a good pace, but I need to get into the depth of the playbook and keep my head into what’s going on,” he said.

The Hawkeye coaches are looking at a three-back rotation with Young, Kelly-Martin and Sargent. That can be challenging with only so many touches to go around

“It can work. It really can work,” Foster said. “I think you have to evaluate the situation of the game and the play calls of the game. Guys are built for certain plays. Maybe one guy is cold. Maybe the third guy in the rotation has the hot hand.”

For Sargent, he’s not worrying about it. He’s just looking to improve and earn the playing time.

“I’ll be happy doing whatever I can do for the team. I’m just thankful to be here,” he said.

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