Tigers’ Pol­lard de­clares for NFL Draft

Mem­phis star showed fans his range of tal­ent

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Evan Barnes Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TODAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

In three sea­sons, Tony Pol­lard elec­tri­fied Mem­phis fans whether as a run­ning back, re­ceiver or one of the na­tion's top kick re­turn­ers.

He showed his full range at the Birm­ing­ham Bowl with his first ca­reer 100yard game as a run­ning back and his sev­enth ca­reer kick­off re­turn touch­down to tie the NCAA FBS record.

That turned out to be Pol­lard's swan song as the Mem­phis ju­nior an­nounced on Twit­ter Fri­day that is declar­ing for the NFL Draft, be­com­ing the second Tigers player to do so fol­low­ing this sea­son.

"I would like to thank The Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis first and fore­most for a great four years of foot­ball," Pol­lard's state­ment be­gan. "This program has al­lowed me to progress and ac­com­plish so much dur­ing that time."

Pol­lard's an­nounce­ment comes just days be­fore the Jan. 14 dead­line for un-

der­class­men to de­clare for the draft.

Run­ning back Dar­rell Hen­der­son declared for the NFL Draft in De­cem­ber after this year's AAC cham­pi­onship game.

While Hen­der­son's decision was ex­pected after be­com­ing Mem­phis' first unan­i­mous All-amer­i­can, Pol­lard's an­nounce­ment was a sur­prise con­sid­er­ing he had some­what of a down year after win­ning AAC Spe­cial Teams Player of the Year his first two sea­sons.

Yet Pol­lard leaves Mem­phis with a dec­o­rated ca­reer and put to­gether a well-rounded ju­nior cam­paign

The Mel­rose High School alum set a Birm­ing­ham Bowl record with 318 allpur­pose yards in the Tigers' 37-34 loss to Wake For­est. The 318 yards is also second-high­est in Mem­phis his­tory for a sin­gle game.

Pol­lard fin­ished this sea­son with 1,677 all-pur­pose yards and was the Tigers' third-lead­ing rusher (552 yards) as well as their second-lead­ing re­ceiver (39 re­cep­tions for 458 yards). He also grad­u­ated with his de­gree in De­cem­ber.

In 2017, he led the na­tion in kick­off re­turn touch­downs (four) and kick re­turn yards per game (40.0). He was named an All-amer­i­can by sev­eral out­lets, in­clud­ing the Foot­ball Writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica and Wal­ter Camp.

As a fresh­man, Pol­lard was named a FWAA Fresh­man All-amer­i­can after returning two kick­offs for touch­downs and reg­is­ter­ing 1,068 kick­off re­turn yards.

Pol­lard's kick­off re­turn touch­down against Temple in 2016 was the first at Mem­phis since 1996 and ended what is be­lieved to be the long­est drought in FBS his­tory be­tween kick­off re­turn scores. With Hen­der­son and Pol­lard leav­ing for the draft, the Tigers will be thin at run­ning back next sea­son with Pa­trick Tay­lor as the lone re­turner with sig­nif­i­cant car­ries. After Tay­lor, the next high­est rusher is fresh­man Kenny Gain­well, who had 91 rush­ing yards in four games be­fore red­shirt­ing.

Gain­well and Tim Tay­lor, who com­pleted his fresh­man sea­son, lead a pack of young backs that will com­pete for car­ries this spring. The Tigers also signed three-star run­ning back Ro­drigues Clark from Mis­sis­sippi.

JUSTIN FORD-USA TODAY SPORTS

Mem­phis Tigers player Tony Pol­lard car­ries the ball against UCF Knights de­fen­sive line­man Ti­tus Davis.

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