MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Talk about your first game jitters. That’s exactly what Memphis Tigers Defensive Back Salvonta Oliver had in the U of M’s first game of the season against Arkansas State Saturday night at the Liberty Bowl.
Oliver placed in an unenviable position by an unrelenting situation due to COVID-19. But, this is a story of eventual triumph over potential tragedy, as Oliver, himself, explains.
“When I first came out of the tunnel, this is what I’ve been working for all my life," he said. “And now I get to do it.”
Oliver dreams of, not just playing in, but starting a Division One college football game came much sooner than expected. The junior college transfer from Itawamba, Mississippi was forced into the starting lineup for the team’s first game after several top defensive backs were ruled out.
Contact tracing was the Culprit. So Oliver found himself often one on one with Arkansas State’s Biletnikoff Candidate Jonathan Adams and just about every other A-State receiver, were winning the battle.
”Playing DB you have to have a short memory, you can’t let things affect you," said Oliver. “Got to get back out there.”
Unfortunately for Oliver, that memory got longer and longer in the first half, as the Red Wolves kept picking on him to eventually take a 14-7 lead.
“The coaches kept telling me, you good. You can do this. They had confidence in me,” said Oliver.
The tide finally turned for Oliver in the second half. At 5′10 and despite giving up several inches in height to the taller A-State receivers, Oliver comes up with the defensive play of his short college career so far, this Sports Center worthy diving interception where he literally swipes that ball away from the pass-catcher for the oskie.
“It’s a fight, that’s my job," he said. "When I first saw it. I had to get it and that’s what I did.”
For his efforts, Oliver gets to wear the team’s prized turnover belt for the takeaway.
“It feels great. I feel like I was ready for it," he said.
The Tigers now have a week off before their next game. It’s their American Athletic Conference opener against Houston at the Liberty Bowl on Friday, September 18.