PICTURED: Former Collierville High School standout outside linebacker Austin Hall signs a fan’s jersey during the University of Memphis Friday Night Stripes spring game on April 12 at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Standium.
By Bill Sorrell
Under Friday night lights, the University of Memphis culminated spring football with its annual Friday Night Stripes game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers’ wide receiver Hunter Hill was signing autographs on Friday and speaking about outside linebacker Austin Hall.
“When he came here no one really knew him and he has become the man with the face of the program. You can’t beat that story. You cannot but love it. I have known Austin a lot of years now. He is a great player, an awesome guy. He is a man of many strengths and a great leader,” said Hill, who played at Briarcrest Christian School.
Hall, who went from an all-state nominated linebacker at Collierville to walk on and earn three letters and a scholarship at Memphis, is literally the face of the program.
He is the cover boy for the 2019 football schedule. His outstreched arms with the eye of the tiger tattoo on his left bicep and blue flames from his hands and back are indicative of how excitement is heating up for the season.
Memphis has won two straight American Athletic Conference West Division titles.
“That is Austin. There is not a guy more deserving,” said Hill of the schedules signed by players for fans after the game.
Calling it an “amazing atmosphere,” Hall said “A lot of people are supporting Memphis football. We have got to play. We have to show up. It’s all about the fans, the people I play with. There were some ups and downs (in the game). There is some improvement we have to do.
“Overall we are growing as a team. We are looking forward to the summer, getting stronger and getting our guys developing, getting with our new schemes. We have got a good team and a good year coming on.”
Joey Magnifico, a redshirt senior tight end who played at St. Benedict, said he is getting more comfortable in an offense that is directed by quarterback Brady White.
“He works his butt off every day to make our team be the best,” said Magnifico of White adding that Hall brings “physicality, leadership and dog.”
Magnifico’s teammate at St. Benedict, Colton Cochran, has been having a good spring. The team is getting a better scheme down with a defense that is fitting together as one he said.
A defensive back and red-shirt junior, Cochran said, “We are getting a lot of people back with a lot of athleticism in all areas.”
Tyler Garvey, who was a linebacker at Collierville, had the highest GPA of any player during Spring 2018 semester with a 4.0. He is majoring in bio-medical engineering.
During the Fall 2018 semester his GPA was 3.85.
“Working hard, prioritizing. It’s a whole lot of making sure my time is split up with what I need to do,” said Garvey, who has a Tiger Scholar patch on his jersey as does Hall.
Hall said being a Tiger Scholar means “a lot. You work hard on the team and you have to work hard off the field. You are a student athlete. That comes first. It’s an honor to wear it. I take pride in it.”
Above the tiger logo jumping throw the M on the patch is the Latin phrase “Non Ducor Duco,” translated in English, “I am not led, I lead.”
“My goals and aspirations are to push myself and better myself and develop every day,” said Garvey, a red-shirt freshman who was a preferred walk-on and anticipates receiving a scholarship.
Hall has helped him develop.
“He shows me how to work and develop myself as a person and as an athlete. Austin is a versatile player. He is athletic. He has made a huge impact on the team. Being on that (schedule) shows how impactful he is to this team.”
Former Collierville head football coach Mike O’Neil also helped develop Garvey.
“Coach O’Neill did a great job teaching me the basics of football. They put a great work ethic into me. They helped me develop and maintain that.”
Garvey has worked at all three linebacking spots “making sure I am versatile. I have been making an impact on special teams and learning the defense.”
He missed about a third of spring practice because of injury and did not dress out for the spring game because of a concussion he sustained the day before during practice.
He is anticipating the season.
“We are going to do great things. I think we have a lot of good players and impactful people on this team and a good staff,” said Garvey.
Tight end John Hassell, a redshirt sophomore who played at Collierville, said Friday Night Stripes went well.
“I got more playing time than I expected. I thought I did well on my plays. I anticipate to get some playing time during the fall and just help my team succeed any way possible,” said Hassell.
“Austin is going on Year 3 or 4 starting and is becoming the leader of the defense. Brady has a successful year under his belt and looks to be even better this coming year.”
Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Wilson of Port Sulphur, Lousiana, said that he played more than he thought he would. He had an injury.
What has impressed Wilson about Hall has been his being on time for meetings and his leadership and learning the playbook quickly.
Wilson calls White “wise. He played the game so long. He has multiple reads.”
Quarterbacking behind White is red-shirt freshman Brady McBride of Coppell, Texas. He threw a pass to Magnifico in the second quarter that Magnifico, who had 66 yards on three receptions, caught with one hand.
McBride completed 11 of 22 passes for 70 yards including a touchdown pass to Kedarian Jones.
White passed for 167 yards, completing 9 of 16 and threw three touchdown passes. One went to Magnifico.
McBride said of White, “He brings a presence of peace and understanding. He does not freak out. He is always calm and collected.”
McBride looks up to Hall, calling him a role model because of the way he carries himself on the field and off.
Hill expects another great season from White, who knows the offense in and out.
“He has come along as a leader. He is an awesome dude in the lockeroom and on the field. I see him improving. He is one of the smartest players I have been around. I don’t know anyone better than him,” said Hill, who is also a Tiger Scholar, majoring in business finance.
Also playing were running back Marquavis Weaver, who played at Bartlett, wide receiver Virgil Pryor of Collierville, linebacker Tim Hart of Memphis University School, outside linebacker Thomas Pickens of MUS, running back Mario Nolan-Dillard of Lausanne, offensive lineman Peyton Jones of MUS, linebacker Nyle Love of Lausanne, defensive lineman Corteze Love of Lausanne, offensive lineman Khaliff Davis of Colllierville and Tennessee Prep Academy, offensive lineman Scottie Dill of Briarcrest, wide receiver Calvin Austin III of Harding Academy, defensive lineman Braylon Brown of Cordova, long snapper Preston Brady of ECS.
Memphis hosts Ole Miss on Aug. 31 in the season opener.