Knowing this could be my last time in a Memphis Tigers jersey playing football at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is the sort of thing that takes your breath away.
I’ve always known this day was coming, but nothing really prepares you for it when it gets here. I mean, it’s been five years.
I’ve poured my whole life into this game.
All of that hit me when I walked through the football facility on Sunday.
That’s when I realized—man, this really could be it.
I tell people all of the time that college football is a 365-day thing. There is no day off. Lord willing, I get to go to the NFL next year and continue playing, but at the same time, football in the way that I’ve always known it is almost over.
I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but even a little while hasn’t seemed long enough.
The Saturday Tradition
The little time left has forced me to sort of reflect on how I got here, you know?
My grandfather played at the University of Memphis before going on to the NFL for a while. He basically put a football in my hands when I was around six years old. So, the sport sort of became our thing. We’d watch college football on Saturdays and then go outside and throw a ball around—you know, the good old days.
I took notes from my grandfather and eventually grew to love the game as much as he did. I remember him telling me all of these funny stories about his teammates and the relationships he built during his playing days. When you hear him talk about the game, it’s hard not to want to experience the same thing.
So playing in college was always something I wanted to do because of him.
I specialized in long snapping in sixth grade because it was unique and something that could potentially take me a long way. I thought to myself, “Who knows? Maybe it would be my ticket to Memphis and the pros one day.”
My father was the team chaplain for the university. So there was always that connection through my family. I told the Memphis coaches from the very beginning that I’d take whatever opportunity they gave me because it was my dream to play there. I truly believed God put me in this city for a reason, and he wanted me to play football here.
My dad was able to help me get my foot in the door, and from there, I ran with the opportunity. The coaches really liked the way I was snapping the ball and thought I’d fit right in.
That opportunity and all of the hard work I’ve gone through to get to this point is something I’ve never taken for granted.
The best part was sharing that moment with my dad and grandfather the moment I signed. I’ll never forget it.
All of us are forever linked to this university, and it’s just one of the most amazing feelings.
I can’t believe it’s almost coming to an end now. Yeah, it’s been kind of emotional, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey these last five years.
My favorite moment
As you can imagine, I now have plenty of stories to share of my own. One, in particular, keeps popping up a lot lately as I reflect on my journey.
It’s the one about the SMU game back in 2019.
Man, that was such a crazy game, right?
SMU made a comeback in the fourth quarter, and they were attempting an onside kick to try and get the ball back and go win the game. I was on the hands team, which is the team that receives the ball.
I was actually supposed to be on the right side, but I was put on the left side for this particular play. I remember Coach Mike Norvell and Pete Lembo backing me up and saying, “No, he needs to be on this side just in case the guy kicks it over here. We trust Preston.”
Keep in mind, this was a College GameDay game.
So there were definitely a bunch of eyes on this moment. You’re obviously out there with the adrenaline pumping, knowing this is the play that could decide the game. But there’s also this confidence that comes with knowing the team and coaches believe in you enough to keep you out there in that situation.
I took a deep breath.
I took another.
The ball was kicked and came right towards me. I watched it all the way before jumping on it and recovering it.
I can’t think of a greater moment that I’ve personally experienced on the football field. That play actually led to me winning the Peter Mortell Holder of the Year Award, which is an award given to the best holder in college football.
It was a big moment for me and an even bigger moment for the city because we won the College GameDay game.
Whatever it takes
Every time I step onto that field, I realize nothing should be taken for granted. I’m always going to give the best that I can to help this team succeed.
Whatever it takes!
I’ll be honest, there were a few days during those last years where I took things for granted every once and a while. You’re young and don’t know any better sometimes, you know?
But things have been different this year.
I’ve taken this time to enjoy every part of the process—from the endless workout grind behind the scenes to being in front of all of the fans and cameras on the field.
I’ve used this year to kind of take on more of a leadership role in hopes of helping out some of the younger guys on the team. It isn’t always easy being a freshman and getting used to waking up at 6:00 AM and practicing in 32-degree weather.
Like I said, college football is a 365-day thing, and you have to take what comes with it. But believe me, if you really love it, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
I’m hoping it doesn’t end on Saturday—that we get a win and one more game after. I just want to soak up every second I have left.
It’s going to be fun because I know my family and my girlfriend will be here to watch the game. Everybody will be here for this one, my grandfather included. We started this journey together all of those years ago, and it’s only fitting that we finish it together as well.
I’m sure there will be a couple tears after the game, but I promise there’ll be a smile on my face the whole time.
This is what I was put here to do.