Family & Teammates Motivating Makylan Pounders in Successful Season
In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves sitting less than a month away from the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. As the weeks of the regular season pass by, the injury lists of “day-to-day,” “game-time decision,” and “out” seemingly grow week-by-week throughout all of college football. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 9 out of every 1,000 FBS athletes will find themselves on that injury report during any given football season. Some injuries, such as bone breaks, ligament tears, sprains, and concussions, are relatively unavoidable and can be chalked up to the nature of the sport. Other injuries can be played and rehabbed through with a grit and determination quite unlike any other athlete has to endure.
For Makylan Pounders, the Tigers’ starting left tackle and protector of Seth Henigan’s blind side, the process of staying healthy throughout the season starts with a daily 6:00 a.m. commute to Memphis from his hometown in Byhalia, Mississippi. “(The Offensive Lineman) is one of the only position groups in sports that’s making physical contact on every single play,” Pounders said, “So it really all depends on how you are taking care of your body.” Adding to a weekly schedule that consists of team and positional meetings, gameplan walk-throughs, academic obligations, and film study, the University of Memphis Football Team also places high priority on its players’ recovery.
“For me, I do a lot of the hot tub, cold tub,” Pounders told Bluff City Media, “If I have a place that really isn’t feeling the best, Memphis has a lot of different treatment stuff that really helps us with our bodies.” Statistics support Makylan’s assertion that offensive linemen take more hits than any other position on the playing field. A 2020 study by the University of Purdue found that offensive linemen collectively took an average of 98 hits (specifically to the head) each game. And while the physical toll of the sport takes great resolve to push through, Pounders says the mental strain can also be overlooked by the common fan. “It takes a toll on you mentally when you physically start to get worn down and you start to lose focus on your assignments.”
And unlike other positions on the field where a one-play lapse may go unnoticed, every fan in the stadium can see when a block is missed and the quarterback gets pummeled. As the youngest starter on the Memphis offensive line, Pounders said he relies on the veterans in the offensive line room during those moments of doubt. “(The older guys) have been through it all; they’ve been on the bad side of things — missing a block, getting the quarterback hit — so when we come off on the sideline they do a great job of keeping everyone under control and moving on to the next play.”
A redshirt sophomore, Pounders arrived in Memphis as the most anticipated offensive lineman since Ryan Silverfield brought Obinna Eze aboard in 2017. After playing three games and redshirting in 2021, Tiger fans and the Memphis coaching staff alike projected Pounders to start as a redshirt freshman last season. After an injury against Mississippi State in the opening game of 2022, Pounders only started in one other game the rest of the year. While the journey hasn’t always been smooth, Pounders has returned as a full-time starter in 2023, helping pave the way for what should be the first 1,000-yard rusher at Memphis since 2019. Seth Henigan’s blind side has been seemingly better covered too, as the Tigers have only surrendered 17 sacks this season after allowing 37 last year.
After receiving the highest OT grade in the country by Pro Football Focus in Week 9, Pounders said his motivation this season has come from a variety of places. “Around the end of last season, I found out I was going to be having a little boy, so for me, I decided at the end of the season I was going to put 110 percent into the next season and whatever happens from then is going to happen. After hurting myself at Mississippi State and not ever necessarily getting back into the starting lineup, I knew for sure coming into this season I wanted to prove to myself and prove to the coaches that I was ready to play.”
The Tigers are 7-2 with an opportunity to match Ryan Silverfield’s single-season win record this Saturday on the road versus Charlotte (3-6, 2-3 AAC).
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