As the overcast skies full of dark clouds produce an unpredictable mix of rainfall, mist and heavy showers, one can still hear the sounds of loud grunts of frustration and footballs slicing the brisk March air. When you make your way to the Memphis Tigers’ practice field, one can also see two determined students making plays in the exact spot that in mere days their dreams could come true.
One student, Fuller Rivera, dons a Stax Museum hoodie and black sweatpants and repeatedly spins the balls in his hands until it’s time to make the next throw. He practices his footwork and carefully mimics his throwing motion because he wants to ensure the uncomfortable weather around him doesn’t worsen his play.
At Rivera’s position of quarterback, he knows the Tigers have numerous players at the position, but he still believes he can make his way onto the roster.
“There are about three quarterbacks on the roster right now,” Rivera said. “From what I understand, they’re bringing in a fourth one. I would be the fifth quarterback which isn’t unheard of on a college roster.”
Though Rivera was born and raised in Seattle, his family has deep roots in the Bluff City. With both parents being from Memphis and his frequent visits in his childhood, he developed a strong liking for the Tigers’ football program and knew someday it would be something he wanted to be a part of.
“It would be a dream come true,” Rivera said. “The dream has always been to come down and be a Memphis Tiger. Getting the opportunity to play Division 1 football and making the team would mean the world to me.”
Unlike most of the players who attended this month’s tryout, Rivera already went through the process. Last summer, before his enrollment at the university, he participated in the team’s open tryouts but didn’t make the cut.
“I was out of shape,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t prepared, and they’d asked if I was going to be attending the University of Memphis in the fall and they asked me to come back in the spring and to get in shape and make sure I’m ready.”
To make sure he was prepared, he gathered up Tiger hopefuls to practice every day. The group of six to seven students spend hours running through plays and practicing their fundamentals, not letting even the worst weather conditions deter them.
“I’ve been hosting these practices since late August, early September,” Rivera said. “We understood that to be prepared and to be ready for tryouts, we had to get to work.”
The group doesn’t stick to a set schedule of what each of their practices bring. They understand the unpredictability of football, so they try to cover all of their bases.
“It just depends on the day,” Rivera said. “I usually work on my footwork, my drops, my rollouts, just anything I feel weak on. But when we come out here we’re here to work and as we figure out the things we need to improve on, that’s what we work on the most.”
Unfortunately for Rivera, his work ethic proved to be his undoing, and just days before tryouts, he suffered a back injury that resulted in him having to go to the emergency room. Despite still being in pain, he participated in the football tryouts March 12 but was unable to continue after feeling numbness in his legs.
Even with the disappointment, Rivera hasn’t let it deter him, and he’s looking forward to this summer’s football tryouts where he can show the coaching staff what he really has to offer.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed that I’ll be getting another opportunity,” Rivera said. “Before then, I know that I have to build up my muscle endurance and spend more time in the weight room.”
Ever the optimist, Rivera believes he still has a place on the Tigers’ roster. This summer’s tryouts will be the final determination of if his dreams are meant to come true.