Genard Avery once thought he would be a Ragin’ Cajun leading the University of Louisiana-Lafayette to a championship. As fate would have it, the senior defensive player for the University of Memphis now hopes to help lead the Tigers to a conference win over University of Central Florida this weekend.
The Tigers are one step away from achieving something no other UofM football team has ever accomplished, an undisputed conference championship, when they travel to play the Knights in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. in Orlando.
To win, Avery knows he must play on the level he has been playing all season, which earned him AAC defensive player of the week on October 30. The 6-1, 255-pounder has played defensive line, linebacker and has even dropped back into pass coverage.
It’s hard to believe Avery came close to leaving the Memphis program in early 2016, citing family as the reason for the decision. He and Coach Mike Norvell had a conversation and he decided to stay put.
He’s happy he did. Later that year, Avery was named the defensive player of the week on October 10, 2016. He was on the first team All-American Athletic Conference Defensive team and this season Avery is second on the team in total tackles (67). He leads the team in tackles for loss (18.5) and sacks (6.5). Avery is just three sacks away from tying the school record for most sacks in a career.
He is also only seven tackles for loss shy of tying former Tiger great Tim Harris and has been named to numerous watch lists.
Terry Davis: How did you get interested in football?
Genard Avery: My cousin, Chris Avery, played arena football. I used to watch him on television. Me and my family would sit down and watch him play and that had me wanting to be a football player. He played for Grand Rapids Rampage.
TD: When did you know you would be good at football?
GA: In my seventh grade year, I started getting bigger. My mom did not want me to play football. The coaches wanted me to play, so they ended up asking my mom. On my very first play, I hit a running back. He fumbled and I picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. That is when I knew I was going to be a football player.
TD: You originally committed to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. What happened?
GA: It was a fast process. I had a lot of people telling me I needed to go there. That was my very first offer. The city was cool and my recruiting visit was very good also. I really liked it at first. I really did not know anything about the recruiting process. With me having a Division I offer, it told me a lot. When I got older, I realized that is a long drive. I started to get highly recruited by Memphis and I changed my decision on that.
TD: What is the difference from the 2015 Memphis team and this team?
GA: One thing I can say is our work ethic. We are hungry. We are a brotherhood and we want to do something special that this program has never done before. We are changing people’s perceptions about Memphis. We are getting better each day and we are trying to finish it.”
TD: What is your fondest memory as a Memphis Tiger?
GA: My fondest memory was my freshman season starting against Ole Miss. That crowd and atmosphere had me like a deer in the headlights. I played with all my heart and it was a great game.