Tony Pollard has always been known for his ability to impact the game in multiple ways as a receiver, running back and on special teams. He won the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Special Teams Player of the Year Award in back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017 at the University of Memphis. In 2017, he became a household name and was selected as a First Team All-American by Walter Camp, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Phil Steele.
With little left to prove in college, he declared for the draft and was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 4th Round (128th Overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. Pollard has become an integral component of Dallas’ offense and special teams units, 3,746 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns as a Running Back and Kick Returner his first three seasons.
Leading up to the 2022 National Football League (NFL) season, Pollard sat down with us to discuss his motivations, his upcoming season and about why, starting this season, he’ll be wearing the Q-Collar.
What’s your relationship like with your teammates?
“I feel like the entire team has a great bond and great chemistry. We lost a lot of big players in the locker room last year, but we did a really good job with the younger guys coming in. This year is the first offseason we’ve had together in two years because of COVID, and I feel like that was big for us to get acclimated with the rookies and the younger guys.”
As a fourth-year player, how do you look at your leadership role on the team?
“At every phase of my football career, I feel like I’ve worked my way into a leadership role. I don’t really act any differently as I work my way up. I feel like the best way for me to lead people is by example. Saying less and doing more has worked best for me.”
What are certain things you do that help you lead by example?
“I’m normally the first or second guy in (to the facility). It’s either me or Dak (Prescott). I like to be in the facility early. I like to knock my lift out early before everyone else does theirs because I like to be ahead of everybody. I feel like I am behind if I don’t get ahead. Since I lift before the rest of the team, I get in the ice tub while the rest of the team is lifting. By the time we get ready for practice, I’m all ready to go.”
Where do you get your discipline from?
“I got my discipline from my dad. I was blessed to have two parents in the household. Him having a barbecue restaurant and seeing him work. Once you work for yourself, you have to work harder than everybody because if you don’t do it, they’re not going to do it. Just seeing him get up early for work every day. I just picked it up from him and carried it on.”
How important is it to give back to future generations of football players?
“It’s a great feeling just seeing little guys coming up. I could see myself in them when I was a little kid playing football. They’re looking up to me like a superstar so it’s definitely a great feeling.”
What is your pregame routine like?
“My pregame routine is a little different. Most guys, they get to the stadium, maybe put the headphones in, chill for a minute, maybe go to the field and run around. Me, I take the late bus because I don’t like to wait. I just want to get there and go play. When I arrive at the stadium, I’m mainly chilling. When I get to my spot in the locker room, I don’t go out. Even when my teammates go out to the field (to warm up), I just stay in the locker room almost the whole time until we have to go out to the field as a team. I feel like if I go out and run on the field early, I’m wasting energy that I need for the game, so I just like to stay chill until game time.”
How would you describe your playing style?
“I would say I’m an elusive runner. I run to avoid contact but if I can’t avoid it, I’m not going to shy away from it. I know the position that I play, hits come with it. I’m not looking to run somebody over but If I have to do that, then I have no problem with it.”
Has your attitude on playing changed throughout your career?
“Since little league, I’ve had a mindset towards football focused on longevity. There was one play in little league I remember where it was an outside run and there was a small cornerback with open field behind him. I just ran him over. My coach came up to me after and said ‘You play running back. There’s no need to look for hits like that. They will come to you.’ You want to play this game as long as you can. You need to avoid the hits that you can avoid and not let anyone get clean hits on you. If there’s a situation where you can’t get out of it, then you have to do what you have to do. I’ve carried this mentality from little league to high school and college, so I’ve been thinking like that for a long time now.”
Did becoming a dad change your views at all?
“I’ve always had a mindset towards longevity but being a dad definitely boosted it because now I have to provide for somebody else and be there for them. Being able to be out there with your kids, go to their games, being out there to play catch with them, the little things in life.”
Why is it important to you to think about your brain health given the sport that you play?
“Playing the sport that I do, I’ve seen guys retire and not be able to move the same as before or function the same because of hits. Maybe it’s brain damage. Maybe it’s just from the body getting hit. It’s a tough game that we play so any kind of advantage I can get to protect myself, I have to take. I feel like wearing the Q-Collar, especially with the big impacts that we take as football players and as a running back, will definitely help me.”
How did you first hear about Q-Collar and where did that come from?
My agent brought it up to me. He asked me how I would feel about wearing it. Once he told me about it, I figured ‘why not?’ If it’s something that can protect me and will benefit my longevity in not only my career, but in life, then I’m all for it.”
Have your teammates been asking you about the Q-Collar and what is your response?
“Every day. I have a guy ask me every day about it. Most times it’s the same guys asking the same kinds of questions just on different days. I tell them that it’s something that’s supposed to help prevent your brain from moving as much on big impacts which helps limit brain damage. It’s going to help you have a longer career in the league.”
How does it feel being at the forefront of keeping your brain safer?
“I like it. It feels like I’m being a trendsetter for not just my team, but for the rest of the league. I’m just waiting for everybody to pick up on it. They’ve been asking me about it every day since I’ve been wearing it. Wearing the Q-Collar and guys seeing me wear it on the field making plays and on top of that, playing for the Dallas Cowboys gives us all kinds of TV coverage and there will be a lot of eyes on us. Little kids who playing football watching us at home, they’re probably going to ask about it and go look it up.”
How does the Q-Collar make you feel?
“The Q-Collar makes me feel like I have an advantage on the field. It makes me feel like I have an upper hand. It makes me feel like I have an extra layer of defense that most guys don’t have and mentally it makes me feel like I’m safer and have more protection on the field.”
Check out Tony and more of our athletes on our YouTube page.