Memphis Football’s 2014 senior class twice experienced the opportunity to stand on a riser and celebrate championships last year.

The Tigers claimed an American Athletic Conference title with its final regular season game played in the Liberty Bowl. The senior class would enjoy another celebration a month later in accepting the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl championship trophy.

The success on the field has also translated to the classroom for Memphis head coach Justin Fuente’s teams.

Over the course of the 2014-15 academic year, which ended with last week’s summer commencement, every member of the 2014 senior class had an opportunity to be on a bigger stage. Every 2014 senior has now earned their bachelor’s degree and had the chance to cross the stage at commencement exercises for the University of Memphis.


Over the weekend, formerTiger Football players returned to campus to host a free football camp for children grades 9-12 at the University of Memphis practice facilities.  The Phenomenal Pros Foundation is made up Tiger greats Marcus Bell (‘97-‘00), Reggie Howard (‘98-‘99), 2-time pro bowler and first round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs Dontari Poe (‘09-‘11), as well as long-time Carolina Panther and current Steeler Deangelo Williams (‘02-‘05) who finished 2nd in Heisman and is still all-time Tiger leading rusher.

Each year, the group returns to Memphis in an effort to give back to city which has given them support throughout their careers. With a camp averaging around 200 kids, the group hosts some preliminary events aimed at raising funds to offset costs associated with this event as well two others: Back to School Shopping and Christmas in Memphis.

This weekend’s events provided several opportunities for former players to reunite, members of the community to share in friendly competitions, and everyone to have a good time.

The golf scramble, held Friday morning at Stone bridge Golf Club, had 18 teams including former players from the Tiger football teams of 80s, 90s, and 2000s.  The unanimous highlight of the event was the “Heckle Hole,” a newly formed tradition hosted and created by Deangelo. “I know [they] have all yelled at me for costing their team something in either fantasy football or us beating their team; so, this was my time to give it back to them,” said Deangelo at the closing awards ceremony.  Nyrone Hawkins, a former lineman in 1990 and current Executive Director of the First Tee organization, bragged on one of his young golfers, “all the groups, and only one person was able to withstand the pressure, and she took a bow after hitting dead center in the fairway about 200 to 250 yards out there. It was all in good fun, and we enjoyed the event.”

Later that evening, the Phenomenal Pros reconvened at Billy Hardwick Bowling Lanes where almost completely different group of former players and community business people came out in support of the organization. Each team bowled two games and the overall winners were announced at the end of the event.

Completely family oriented, attendees started at 6 weeks old and went up to the most tenured Tiger Fans.  Raffle prizes for all events included autographed trading cards, posters, cleats, gloves, jerseys, among other great door prizes. Everywhere you looked the hosts were taking pictures with people of the event, hanging out with old friends and meeting the newest members of Tiger Nation.

The camp was held on the turf field at the University of Memphis south campus.  The Phenomenal Pros were joined by high local high school coaches, many of who were former Tigers, and together they instructed close to 200 young athletes. Current Ridgeway High School Head Coach Duron Sutton (‘95-‘96) and former Wooddale High School head coach Keith Spann (‘93-‘96) as well as former Ridgeway Head Coach Rod Brown (’90-’93) were joined by other past players Joe Doss (04-07), and Rico Mathis (07-08).  Jermaine Chambers (03-06) was ever present taking pictures to document the event.

Bell, the chief organizer of the weekend said he was pleased with the attendance and community support.  “This is an event that I believe should carry on long after we are gone.”  He continued, “hosting the event at the University of Memphis is symbolic of the starting point for all of us and we want the young men of Memphis to have similar experience in their lives starting with getting a college degree. Whether they play college football and go on to be the next member of the Phenomenal Pros or their High School days are their last day as an athlete, we want the opportunity to give them the foundation of education should be their first goal.

Having the free clinic this weekend is only one of three major events sponsored in the Memphis area throughout the year where we get an opportunity to give back to the City which has given us so much support and hopefully make a difference in young men’s life.  This is an annual event held the weekend after Father’s Day.  We look forward to next year and having our greatest Tigers around again and hopefully we can add to the roster of past players come out and participate.”


Dr. Rudd, University President challenged the entire University of Memphis community to do more and give back.

On April 18th, the Tiger Football team accepted that challenge and the entire roster teamed with 30 volunteers from the Red Cross to learn how to set up an emergency disaster infirmary.

Attached is a video of the day, or click here to read the full story.

Red Cross Volunteer Training for University of Memphis Football Team

We at the Mid-South Red Cross extend a huge thank you and welcome to the University of Memphis football team. On Saturday, April 18th, the team stepped forward to be trained as Red Cross volunteers and acquire the skills necessary to work in Red Cross disaster shelters when the need arises. They are an awesome group of guys, and it was our pleasure to work with them and welcome them to the Red Cross family of volunteers.


I vividly remember the day I arrived in Memphis very eager to get started training and to begin the next chapter of my life. I was excited to make the best of my opportunity as a division 1-football player. Memphis has had a couple of consecutive losing seasons, but I thought it would get quickly turned around. I was sadly mistaken, the problem was very deep rooted and within.

With the hire of Justin Fuente, he laid out a plan on how a real football program operates. He also quickly weeded out the bad apples who were not needed and who did not see Fuente’s vision for the program.

He taught the upperclassmen how to lead and show the younger guys how things were done. This was the most critical part of our success. When times got hard, knowing that someone was watching me and looking up to me on the field, I was obligated to maintain my composure and act in an appropriate manner.

After having a monstrous junior season, I contemplated entering the NFL draft a year early. However, after thinking long and hard, I decided my work at Memphis was not done and I could not leave on a bad note having just completed a 3-9 season. We worked tirelessly during the offseason and prepared for the 2014 season with the motto 1-0, never looking ahead and only playing week by week.

We wrote out our personal goals and our team goals. I hung these up and looked at them everyday before I left my apartment. Some of them were fulfilled and some of them were not. I achieved all of them academically but fell short of some of them athletically.

After my last college game and first bowl game experience, I knew my career was not done. I had and still have to prove that I belong at the next level. After participating in the East/West shrine game and receiving an invite to the NFL combine I liked my chances of being drafted. Although, draft day is crazy and anything can happen I kept my faith and continued to pray. When the day finally came around it was nerve wrecking pick by pick on day 3. I finally received a call from the St. Louis Rams and my opportunity presented itself.

I trained pretty hard before the report day for rookies so I felt prepared, which I was. Being a rookie is very similar to being a freshman in college again. You have to reprove all over again especially as a 7th round pick. You have to show them that you belong and you can be a professional.

Things are going good so far.  The things which have helped me get to this point in my life, is what’s going to keep me here. So this break we have before training is going to be vital as to how I perform in camp. So I will train the best way I know how.

A Look Toward Senior Year

Signing my letter of intent to come to the University of Memphis was a dream come true for me. My whole life I had wanted to do nothing but play division 1 football and now I was going to do that. When I first showed up I knew the program was coming off of a 3-9 season but I really believed in the coaches and what they were doing. I had faith that they could turn this place around and that’s what happened.

When I first arrived I knew I had a lot of work to do my first off season in order to catch up and put myself in a position to get meaningful snaps. I worked day in and day out in the weight room and in the playbook in order to put myself in the best possible position to get real playing time my first year here. In the end it paid off for me and I was named the starting left guard where I made 13 starts as a junior.

I had a great time as a junior and we won a lot of games but I knew going into my second offseason that I could still get so much better. I set some personal goals in the offseason and made it my mission to accomplish these goals knowing that they would only make me a better football player

Entering my senior year and final fall camp I knew we needed to have a good one and also knew we were set up to have one with the all the hard work that we had put in that summer and spring. Knowing it was my final fall camp in college made it different for me. Knowing that it was the last chance I would have to go through a camp with these coaches and these teammates that had become as close as family to me meant a lot. It made me work as hard as I possibly could not only for my own success but also for the guy next to me. Not letting my teammates down became the most important priority to me.

Now that camp is over and we head into our first game it is important that we not only learn how to practice but how to prepare. As a senior I know I don’t have many of these games to prepare for left so I want to make sure that I always prepare to the best of my ability.