MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When it became clear that there would not be a high school football season, a lot of dreams of playing college football were suddenly in jeopardy of never being realized. But thanks to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Shelby County Schools, nearly 400 high school athletes will get a chance, through this weekend’s showcase.
Every participant is run through a series of skills at the Liberty Bowl. Everything they do is caught on tape, so the players have something to send to college recruiters.
"Nothing can replace gameplay, you know, actually playing in a game," Whitehaven head coach Rodney Saulsberry said. "But this is the closest thing we can get to it, so we're just thankful for the opportunity."
"It's going to put me out there, more exposure," Middle College junior Antonyus Moore said. "Especially in the [40-yard dash] times, that's what coaches look at, the 40 times. How fast you are, agility and stuff like that, so it's going to put me out there."
Not only did SCS players lose a season to show their in-game abilities, but they have also had to watch as private and municipality school programs within the county play on.
For many seniors, this weekend represents one more shot at playing under the lights. But the hope is it will not be the last.
"Without football, a lot of people aren't going to be able to do stuff, because football is their only way out," Southwind High School senior said. "So I'm glad that the SCIAA put this together."
"These kids have persevered, so my hat goes off to them because a lot of them could be at home," Saulsberry said. "A lot of them made the choice to not be here. So my hat goes off to all these kids that made the choice to be here on a Friday night to try and get themselves better, to try to perform, and try to show themselves worthy of the next opportunity."
"I'm just hoping everyone balls out and gets that same opportunity that other folks are getting," Whitehaven junior Ricky Wilson said. "Especially since we had no season, I just hope everybody balls out so they get that opportunity to play at the college level."
Friday was the first of two-day event. Another group of Shelby County's finest athletes will show out Saturday.