MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tony Pollard had a feeling he would become a Dallas Cowboy. Days before the Memphis Tigers former do it all weapon was drafted in the fourth round, 128th overall, by America’s Team, he had a hunch he was headed to the Lone Star state, and hoped it would happen.
“They just welcomed me with open arms," Pollard said about his first meeting with the Cowboys. "I was able to go in there, talk to everybody, the owner, head coach, position coaches and be myself. They just liked me for who I am as a person. Not only on the field, but off the field. It just felt like we clicked once we got in there, and got to talking.”
Pollard wasn’t supposed to be a fourth round NFL Draft pick. Most draft analysts projected the two-time American Athletic Conference special teams player of the year as a sixth or seventh round pick, but Pollard is used to proving the “experts” wrong.
He was ranked 1,820 in the nation coming out of Melrose High School in 2015, and held just two division one offers, Austin-Peay State University and the University of Memphis. Pollard chose the hometown Memphis Tigers, and the rest is history.
“It’s not all about the rating and the stars,” Pollard said. “It’s really about how you go about everyday, taking advantage of your opportunities and working hard. What’s done in the dark will come to light."
Pollard redshirted his freshman season at the U of M, but immediately made an impact as a redshirt freshman in 2016. He was second in the FBS for kick return yards, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, a new school record.
Pollard was even more dynamic as a sophomore, leading the nation in kick-return average, and tying the FBS lead with four kickoff touchdowns. He was named to the All-America first team by Walter Camp, Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele.
By his junior season, Pollard was viewed as one of the most dynamic players in the AAC. He was a threat from the backfield as a running back, a top passing target at wide receiver and eventually tied the FBS record for career kickoff touchdowns with seven. He left Memphis with 3,183 all-purpose yards, the third-most in school history.
“All the hard work you put in when nobody’s watching, nobody’s paying attention, you’re not getting the stars or the ratings you want, just keep working, stay focused and be true to yourself,” Pollard said.
Pollard’s decision to declare for the NFL Draft a year early was viewed with some skepticism. Some believed it was risky after a less stellar junior season compared to his sophomore campaign, but Pollard said he knew he was prepared to make the jump to the professional level, giving credit to his college head coach, Mike Norvell.
“They did a good job of just being able to show my versatility on the field," Pollard said. "Being able to allow me to make plays at running back, lineup in the slot, on special teams and kick return. It kept me from being one dimensional. I felt like he did a good job of that.”
When the call from the Cowboys finally came, Pollard said it was hard to keep himself together without getting emotional.
“It took everything in me not to let a tear out,” Pollard said. “I’m looking, I’m watching TV, I’m like, ‘everybody’s crying. You should be happy right now.’ Once you actually get the phone call, and emotions get to running, it’s almost impossible to stop it from happening. I felt my eyes getting watery, my hands were shaking, but I held it together.”
Pollard will join a Cowboys team in need of a backup to starting running back Ezekiel Elliott, and one that’s looking for a returner of Pollard’s caliber. It seems to be a perfect fit for a player who has worked his way from a no name prospect to a draft pick, surrounded by a lot of buzz, going into the 2019 NFL season.