How is Local 24 Sports’ Jessica Benson like Mike Norvell? It’s a Memphis thing

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – Mike Norvell and I have a couple things in common: we both sported iconic looks in the early 2000s, we both love college football, and in 2016, we both started three-year contracts that brought us from the West Coast to Memphis, TN.  

If you’d like to review my first Memphis football practice, you can read all about it here:

But here’s the gist: It was hot as hell, I wore a dress (idiot), I stayed the whole time (double idiot), I drank no water (triple idiot), and when it was time to finally interview Coach Norvell after practice, I thought I was going to either puke or pass out.

I can’t speak for Coach Norvell, but I was pretty positive this little Memphis stint was a guaranteed three-and-out situation. That’s the nature of the business – both local TV news and coaching. You sign multi-year contracts in cities where you never imagined living (shout-out to the Tri-Cities, WA I miss you and your wine), and you try to carve your path in the industry. 

I haven’t taken a math class since my junior year of high school, but if my memory serves me right, my three years were up four months ago. 

Listen, I’m not here to BS you. I thought about leaving. There was a job I really wanted that passed on me. No, it wasn’t the Arkansas football job. And then there were multi-year offers in other cities where I’d never imagined living. But, none of those felt as special as the Memphis sports scene feels right now. 

Penny Hardaway brought unicorns. Favorable ping pong balls brought Ja. 

Guitars were smashed and baseballs mashed at AutoZone Park. 

And Memphis football just kept winning. 

That coach who I almost puked on has led his team to four straight 8-plus win seasons.  

He’s led his Memphis Tigers to two AAC West titles.

He’s convinced SEC caliber players in SEC country to pick Memphis.

And yet that all pales in comparison to the scene in Memphis this past weekend; a weekend that featured a Memphis win over an undefeated, ranked team, in front of a sold out Liberty Bowl, in prime time, on national TV, following ESPN’s College Game Day on Beale Street.

It was beautiful. It was so Memphis. 

I can’t speak for Coach Norvell, but if he’s anything like me, he spent a large portion of Saturday thinking, “I’m so very happy to be here.” 

Three years, four months and six days in, you bet I am. 

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