If there is one thing I’ve learned in my college career, it’s that the recruiting stars by your name mean nothing.
Throughout my career here at Memphis, I’ve seen 4 and 5-star players that are nowhere near that level while some of the best opponents I’ve faced were just like me: unranked.
To me, everyone is equal until they are out on that field.
Man, I just wish I had someone who told me this as I was going through the recruitment process.
Growing up in Memphis, I always had the dream of playing college football, but when the recruitment process started, I couldn’t find an opportunity with any program.
I went to camps all over the country, competing and beating some of the best players in my class, but I still couldn’t find any attention. I had great hands, could run routes and was a coachable kid.
But there was one thing holding me back: my 40 yard dash time.
This one time was in between me and a college scholarship, but I couldn’t seem to get over the hump. In my mind, I was only 17 years old and not fully developed, so how could this determine the next 4 years of my life?
But even though I wasn’t always the fastest kid on the field, I was still determined to play college ball. Continuing to work with my high school coaching staff, we looked all over to see if there was someone willing to see the value I could bring to a team.
Funny enough, that opportunity came in my own backyard at The University of Memphis.
Since the start of my recruitment, one of the coaching staff, Coach Dickey, had been coming by our practices to check in on me. There was never an offer given, but he continued to push me to come to Memphis as a Preferred Walk-On.
So as the recruitment process came to an end, and I still didn’t have any offers, I was ready to pursue my future at Memphis. It wasn’t a Scholarship, but I was still thankful to have the opportunity to prove myself.
And even though I would be a Walk-on, I promised myself I would stop at nothing to be the best.
Unlike others that try to label the Walk-Ons, I didn’t care what I came in as. As a freshman, I wanted to challenge the starters every day, trying to touch the field any way possible.
Whether it was getting in that extra workout or staying on the field after practice to do cone drills, I didn’t have any plans to become complacent now that I had my shot.
Even as I received the redshirt designation, I knew I got the coaches attention.
And that next year, it was announced that I would be given a scholarship.
Although I was excited to earn this honor, I knew I still hadn’t reached my goals. My goal was to become the best at my position, so in my mind, I still had a lot of work to do!
It actually wasn’t until I started to break records last year, where I finally opened my eyes to see how close I was to reaching my goals. And when I received a call from Memphis legend, Isaac Bruce, to congratulate me on my achievement, I was honored to have us even mentioned in the same sentence.
But if anything, this just made me hungrier to reach the top and continue to help our team win games. Now, I wanted to compare myself to the best players in the country.
And if I was going to do that, I knew I’d need to go back to work. Along with extra workouts, I worked to build the chemistry with Riley, so that we wouldn’t need to think when we linked up on routes, we could just play.
All offseason, Riley and I worked together to make sure we could challenge the best teams in the country. In particular, we had one game circled on our schedule.
Our matchup with UCLA.
This game wasn’t just important to the team because UCLA is a big PAC-12 matchup and it would give our program great publicity. It also put a chip on our shoulders because, at almost every position on the field, their team was a “higher ranking” coming out of high school.
So with one game, I wanted to show that not only was my recruiting ranking wrong, but I could compete against the 5-star corner lined up across from me.
And by the end of that game, we had shown what Memphis football is all about.
Winning the game by a narrow margin, each one of us showed that we could compete with any player, no matter the “experts” opinions. Personally, I was also able to show what I was made of too, as I had 180 yards and 2 touchdowns against a defense that had some of the best recruits in the country.
Like I said, everyone is equal out on the field!
So for those of you having a tough time finding an opportunity at the college level, remember, it’s not what they say about you at the beginning, but what is said at the end of your career.
And if you truly want to become the best in the game, don’t let others decide your potential for you. Only you have the ability to determine your future and what you can achieve.