MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
Kenny Gainwell is opting out of the Memphis Tigers 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, the star running back announced via Twitter.
The preseason Second Team All-American said the loss of a third family member to the virus convinced him to sit out the season.
"I've had to arrive at the toughest decision of my life, which is to opt out of the 2020 college football season," Gainwell said in his post. "I love this game with all my heart, and never thought I'd have to make this decision."
Prior to Gainwell's announcement, head coach Ryan Silverfield informed reporters that the program will not comment on matters of opting out until the paperwork is signed, or a player goes public. While he did not address Gainwell's decision directly, he reiterated his support for any player that chooses to opt out.
"I always talk to them about the different situations," he said. "But for health and safety reasons or whatever they choose their reasons to be for opting out, I will support them, and I think that's the right thing to do. "
Gainwell burst on the scene last season, following the Week One injury to Patrick Taylor Jr. The versatile back had 16 total touchdowns and over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2019; a vital cog in the Tigers run to the Cotton Bowl.
They will now turn to the likes of Kylan Watkins, Rodrigues Clark and Asa Martin to fill the void left by Gainwell's departure.