By Michael Grimm
The Memphis running back had an explosive 2019 season as a redshirt freshman, making plays all over the field and at one point getting himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
But in 2020, he opted just days before the first game, citing four deaths in his family from COVID-19 complications, a tragic situation.
In that 2019 season, Gainwell rushed for 1,459 yards (6.3 per carry) and caught 51 passes for 610 yards, with 16 total touchdowns. His 2,069 yards from scrimmage ranked fourth nationally, and he averaged 7.3 yards per touch for a Tigers team that went to the Cotton Bowl.
The Eagles are getting a player who can line up in the backfield, in the slot or out wide and handle returns on special teams — much like Darren Sproles did.
Memphis has produced versatile running backs in Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys), Darrell Henderson (Los Angeles Rams) and Antonio Gibson (Washington) in recent years, and Gainwell fits that mold, though he looks more explosive and has a smaller frame at 5-8, 201 pounds.
.@Eagles @KENNETHGAINWEL @MemphisFB the #Birds 5th round pick is a complete football player. Only a 1 year player so not much tread off of his wheels. Big upside and more “JUICE” for the offense. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/R82zZUaWUg
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) May 2, 2021