Memphis PURE began practice with a 40-man roster and the challenge of establishing chemistry. (Courtesy photo)

For Memphis PURE (Progressing Under Restraints and Extremes) Youth Athletic Alliance football coach Melvin Cole, leading a football team within the organization was a dream.

That dream became reality (Oct. 16) as the PURE program squared off against perennial Memphis prep football power Christian Brothers High School. Despite falling 52-18 in their inaugural contest, optimism remained high among the PURE players.

The PURE squad initially consisted of home-schooled student-athletes and players, who attend high schools without a football team.

Its roster was enhanced with Shelby County Schools athletes after SCS Supt. Dr. Joris Ray announced on Sept. 15 the postponement of fall sports because of COVID-19. The decision angered many students and their parents.

Despite the challenges of being a start-up program, Cole embraced high expectations for his young team.

Cole, the founder of PURE program, motivated players within the organization to sustain and realize their goals.

Cole saw a lot of himself in many of the student-athletes and realized that some needed a chance to escape the streets and trouble lying outside the walls of the Whitehaven school. He decided the best way to go about that was starting his own team. The process did not occur without its challenges.

“We had tryouts with 120 registered (for the program) and I narrowed it down from there,” Cole said. “I really wanted to give these kids the opportunity they deserve.”

The 40-man roster assembled three weeks ago and began practicing. Despite the lack of chemistry at the beginning, Cole’s team possesses extreme confidence.

“When Coach Cole brought up the idea of joining the Memphis PURE football team, I was all for it,” said junior quarterback Tevin Carter, who threw for two touchdowns against the Purple Wave. “I wanted to be a part of this, and I feel that a lot of the players will benefit from this experience.”

Carter, who has scholarship offers from more than a dozen schools, including Arkansas, LSU and Florida State, said sharpening his skills and improving his technique remain the central goals.

While he knows the PURE team was a huge underdog against Christian Brothers, Carter refuses to run from competition, choosing to embrace the challenge of playing elite teams.

 “Last season at Kirby, I played against 6A competition, and we faced the best teams,” Carter said. “I told Coach Cole that I do not want to face the lower-level squads, but that testing ourselves would be the best for us and the program.”

Players like Carter and defensive lineman Terry Carter (no relation), wide receivers LeDarion Carpenter and Charles Thomas, and defensive back Kaleb Almo anchor a squad Cole expects to exceed expectations.

Against CBHS, Carpenter returned a 90-yard kickoff for a touchdown while hauling in a touchdown from Carter as well.

Cole understands the amount of skepticism around the idea of a new program making noise, but he is not fazed by the distractions.

Developing young men grow into great men in the future always comes first for him. He does realize the need for a lot of his players to gain exposure during the season.

 “I knew the kids needed quality opponents on film for college coaches to review,” Cole said. “Our goal is to make sure as many seniors as possible attend college on scholarships.”