Like a flash, he leapt into the air, snatched the football and ran down the field, breaking tackles and shaking opponents off along the way. Big plays like this are no stranger to Memphis native Tony Pollard, who has been making them since his youth football days as a Whitehaven Raven.
Pollard, the 2019 fourth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, is now making his mark on the field in preseason play. The rookie is starting in the absence of Zeke Elliott, and his performance — including those fearless runs up the middle — is sealing the promise of more playing time on the field this season.
Not only does Pollard like the Cowboys’ odds of going to the Super Bowl, but so do many diehard Dallas fans who have been languishing in consecutive losing seasons over the past several years.
“He said, ‘Mama, we’re going to the Super Bowl,’” said Torrie Pollard. “It’s just the same way he told me he was going to the NFL when he was four years old and playing for the Whitehaven Ravens. I said, ‘Boy, go sit down somewhere.’ Now look what happened. He’s playing for the Dallas Cowboys. And he keeps telling me that they’re going to the Super Bowl. I think we ought to listen to our children more. I’m setting my days aside to be at the Super Bowl. I believe my son.”
Pollard never had to make a believer out of his father, Terrance Pollard.
“I knew all along Tony was going to the NFL,” he said. “There was never a doubt in my mind. Tony is motivated, always has been. I would offer him a treat for every touchdown, anything he wanted. Of course, that wasn’t McDonald’s. He always wanted a steak from Houston’s. After a while, I had to figure out something else. He was running so many touchdowns.”
“The Pollards” own Whitehaven’s hottest barbeque spot, Pollard’s Bar-B-Que. On game day, that’s the spot to be, says Torrie Pollard.
“We invite everyone to come out during football season and enjoy the games, especially if Dallas is playing,” she said. “And if you can’t stay and cheer for your favorite team, get your game day spread from us. We have so much more than barbeque — wings, pork, beef – and the best homemade sides you’ve ever tasted.”
When asked about his parents’ restaurant, Tony joked, “Yes, my parents own a restaurant. I’m a professional cook and a professional football player.”
The popular eatery is a dream of Terrance Pollard.
“My husband always wanted to open a family business where everyone worked together, you know, all the children, and so this is it,” said Torrie Pollard.
Although Tony Pollard is not there, his memorabilia is. Sports headlines and photos are all over the wall, creating a virtual shrine to the Memphis kid turned pro.
Playing college ball…
Pollard’s dynamic, energetic style made him a standout at Melrose High School. And delighting University of Memphis local fans, Pollard decided to stay home and attend college. The Memphis team bombed with kick returns. But Pollard was a game changer. In only his sophomore year, he led the nation in kick-return average at 40 yards per return and logged a team high of 1,649 all-purpose yards.
Running big plays caught the attention of NFL scouts all over the country, and in 2017, Tony went to his parents and shared his intent to enter the draft.
“Both his dad and I discouraged the idea,” said Torrie Pollard. “His father said, ‘Son, you’re not ready for that yet. Stay in school.’ I told Tony, ‘Please just do one thing for me. Stay in school and graduate. Get your degree. Please just do that for your mother.’ And he did just that. Tony is really a good boy. He’s always been a sweet child.”
Twenty-two-year-old Pollard continues to draw national attention for his preseason play as starter Zeke Elliott holds out for a new contract.
“Tony’s agent said that the game is a business and people shouldn’t forget that,” said Torrie Pollard. “But God just made a way for Tony to have this opportunity to show what he can do. He’s been working very hard. Tony told me, ‘Practice is hard work, but I stay focused and learn the plays.’”
And, now that Pollard’s a big football pro, how does he feel about his hometown and the University of Memphis? His recent online post says it all:
“I would like to thank the University of Memphis, first and foremost, for a great four years of football. This program has allowed me to progress and accomplish so much. … During my four years, the city has been behind me the entire way, and I couldn’t thank you all enough. Thank you to the staff, coaches, team, my family, and everyone that has supported me. … I will continue representing Memphis wherever I go. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. I love you Memphis!!!” – Tony Pollard