I remember being on the field running around during pregame.
It wasn’t just any game, either.
It was the Battle of the Bones.
A big rivalry game between Memphis and UAB.
I can’t even recall how old I was, but it was the coolest feeling ever. As I looked around the stadium that held thousands and thousands of people, I knew I was going to play college football someday.
What I didn’t know was that I’d be playing on that exact field a handful of years later when I signed on to play football for my hometown team.
Talk about a full-circle moment.
It’s still difficult to wrap my head around it sometimes. I used to watch Memphis games with my dad every weekend growing up. Now, I’m wearing the same helmet and uniform of guys I grew up watching and idolizing.
I’ve had a strong passion for football my entire life, but from a young age, my parents instilled in me the importance of giving back. They’ve always reminded me that what I do off the field is far more significant than what I do on it.
Being from Memphis, it’s an honor for me to have the platform to pay it forward and support a community that has given be so much.
That blue uniform and “M” on my helmet don’t just represent a university and football program – they represent a community that helped shape me into the man I am today.
Like I said, I grew up watching Memphis football and always envisioned playing here, but I also didn’t want to be tied down.
When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to leave my options open.
See what else was out there for me, you know?
Memphis offered me a scholarship, but what stood out to me was that their coaching staff didn’t pressure me to make a decision.
They encouraged me to visit as many schools as possible and make the best decision for me and my future.
They genuinely established a connection with me and wanted my best.
My parents were also unbelievably supportive.
I was sitting at the table with them one day, and they had me write down five schools I was most interested in. On the back of the paper, they had me write down the five categories I was looking for in a potential school.
I knew this would be the case, but Memphis ranked number one in every category. Between the coaching staff, play-calling philosophy, facilities, campus, proximity to home — this was it.
I didn’t need any more time to decide.
I called up Coach Silverfield and told him I was staying home and officially becoming a Tiger.
My biggest influences
My parents and grandparents have been my source of inspiration throughout my entire life. I’m not lining up at center every Saturday for a DI program without their constant guidance and encouragement.
What I also love about my parents is they understood I was leaving home without actually leaving home. Before I left for college, they told me, you may only be 30 minutes away, but we’re going to treat you like you’re three hours away.
They’ve given me the space to learn, grow, and make mistakes on my own.
I appreciate them so much for that.
Another person I’d be remiss not to mention is my high school offensive line coach, Brandon Pearce. He played O-line at Memphis as well back in the day, and he’s become so much more than a coach for me.
He’d stay with me after practice for hours, getting additional work in.
In addition to the extra workouts, he’d take me to football camps and accompany me and my parents on college visits.
Outside of my family, he’s been the most influential person in my life, as he taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, and resilience.
My talent and work ethic may have gotten me to Memphis, but I wouldn’t be here without Coach Pearce and my parents believing in me and pushing me to be the best player I could be.
The value of service
As soon as I got to college, giving back was always the plan.
In my fifth year now, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in various community service projects and organizations.
One of the organizations I work with is MyTown Miracles, which is dedicated to helping those in need.
We do everything from participating in 5K runs to organizing free baby showers for families in our community.
Another organization I am passionate about is Madonna, which is a special needs learning center. I enjoy interacting with the children, whether it’s reading to them, participating in fun activities, or just getting to know them and establishing a relationship.
Thanks to Lauren Hillman, who’s our Director of Player Relations, I’ve made many visits to local hospitals and schools, talking to kids and getting to know them on a personal level.
Nothing makes me happier than going back to these same hospitals and schools and seeing familiar faces. They know my name, and I know theirs, and it reminds me how important it is to establish those relationships and make an impact.
It’s a blessing to be a part of a program and university that cares so much about the people that support us, and I’m happy that we can return the favor as often as we can.
Creating lanes of opportunity
I was voted to be one of the team captains this season, which has been one of the greatest honors of my life. The thing about being a captain is, it’s not just about me anymore.
I have a responsibility beyond myself, and it’s a tough challenge at times, but it’s a role I fully embrace.
Being a positive and motivating presence is what I strive to be each and every day, especially for the younger guys.
While I’m a fifth-year senior, I care deeply about the success and growth of this program. Memphis football has been near and dear to my heart from a young age, and I want nothing more for this program than to continue to reach new heights long after I’m gone.
Looking ahead, I plan to pursue a career in the NFL after this season. You never know exactly where life is going to take you, but I’m going to continue playing this game I fell in love with as a little boy for as long as I can.
As I continue to pursue my dreams on the football field, I can assure you that giving back to the community and being a part of something greater than myself will always be my driving force.
Whether it’s through football or community service, I am dedicated to making a positive impact in Memphis and beyond. I have been blessed with opportunities very few get to experience, and that’s not something I’ll ever forget or take for granted.
If I can inspire others to live out their dreams and enjoy a fulfilling and complete life, no matter where my football career takes me, I’ll have done my job.
Thanks to a city I’m proud to always call home.