Opposite Sides of the Lens
Go Tigers!
Go Tigers!

Go Tigers!

Oct. 19, 2010

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Former Memphis football letterwinner and local sports television anchor Jarvis Greer gets a unique vantage point as he follows his son, J.J., who is a sophomore on the Memphis soccer team.

It sounds like a classic American narrative: the hometown football star walks on at the big university, wins a scholarship and respect, becomes the local news anchor and has a son to carry on his football legacy. Heard it before, right?

Except for one small detail: instead of following his father's path to football, the son became a soccer star.

Such is the story of Jarvis and JJ Greer, two Memphis natives who represent the past, the present and most likely the future of University of Memphis athletics.

Jarvis Greer, Sr. was a safety for the Memphis Tigers in 1977-78, walking on to the Tiger football team and earning a scholarship his final two seasons. The elder Greer made 24 tackles in his two years roaming the secondary at the Liberty Bowl, helping the Tigers to wins over Mississippi State and Virginia Tech in 1977.

Upon earning his degree in communication arts from the U of M, Greer took up a position at local television station WMC-TV (Channel 5) in the Memphis area, where he has worked for 30 years. In that time, "Jarvo", as he asks to be known, has collected three "Best of Memphis" awards, as well as a regional Emmy.

Jarvis Greer 

Jarvis Greer was a safety on the football team for the Memphis Tigers in 1977-78.

"I graduated in the spring of '79 and started work that following Monday at WMC-TV," Greer said. "I've been in commercial television for 31 years now, and it has been an incredible ride."

The elder Greer is an outspoken, outgoing ball of energy. His son is quiet and reserved, content to let his father ramble and tell stories to his heart's content. JJ, a sophomore, is a journalism major at the U of M, but has no plans to follow his dad onto the small screen. "That's his area," the younger Greer said. "Truth be told, I'm not that comfortable in front of the camera."

He may be uncomfortable in the limelight, but JJ Greer isn't making it any easier on himself with his performance on the pitch. He was the Tigers' second-leading scorer as a freshman, earning seven points. He led the squad in assists with five and was a Conference USA All-Freshman Team performer.

As part of a young Tiger squad, the younger Greer will have more than a couple of chances to add to the Greer legacy in the coming seasons. Exuding a quiet confidence, JJ is an exceptional athlete with quickness and vision honed from playing basketball and soccer at the highest levels since he was a little kid.

JJ began playing soccer at the local YMCA at the age of four and started playing basketball when he was five, but football couldn't be started until JJ was much older and he had already established his athletic chops on the pitch and the hardwood.

Okay, so given the "stage parent's" that litter the landscape these days, the elder Greer was certainly pushing little "Ja Ja" towards football, right?

Not hardly, according to Jarvo.

"Man, I was out of it," he laughed. "I knew the physical demands of football. When JJ was growing up, he trailed after his sister (McKenzie), who was a soccer player. From an early age, he took to soccer like a duck to water. I didn't want him to get hurt (playing football); he wanted to play, but he was in club soccer and AAU basketball and those were more important to him."

   JJ 8-yr old team with Richie 

Memphis head coach Richie Grant and J.J. Greer's relationship goes back over 10 years. When J.J. was eight, Grant served as his club team's soccer coach.

"My little body was broken after football," Jarvo went on. "My wife said, `There is no way my child is playing football,' and I didn't really feel like arguing. He was already immersed in these other sports and I think he'd tell you himself that he was kind of little, at the time, for football."

So, even though he didn't choose your sport, JJ was strongly encouraged to attend the University of Memphis by his parents, right?

Not so, the younger Greer counters.

"I'm a homebody," explains JJ. "I've known Coach Grant since I was eight years old, and we've always had a great relationship. It was just kind of an added bonus that he (Jarvis Sr.) went to Memphis. When it came down to deciding, I love my city, and didn't know where I'd go if I left. He didn't push me on it at all; in fact, he was much more concerned with where I went to high school (Christian Brothers)."

Jarvis concurs, though he adds that, "Mom and Dad were very happy and very relieved that he stayed here, though I think it was a foregone conclusion he was going to be a Tiger."

Well, at least being the son of a former U of M athlete and noted local television personality must have its benefits?

"People tease me about it, you know, (mimics holding a microphone) `I'm here with Jarvis Greer's son' and stuff like that," said JJ. "It's all in good fun."

Jarvis' catchphrases have become a source of amusement for his son's teammates, who hear such Jarvism's as "Feed the net" (when in need of a score), "Climb the ladder" (when going up for a header) and "Enter...the Dragon" (when versatile sophomore Hugo Mondragon enters the match).

Even with his American football background, Jarvis Greer has embraced his son's sport and thrown himself into it with gusto.

JJ Greer 

J.J. Greer was the Tiger's second-leading scorer as a freshman in 2009, earning seven points.

"Back when I was growing up, every once in a while you'd see soccer on `Wide World of Sports', but never often enough to get attached to it," explains Jarvis. "Football people here think soccer is a namby-pamby sport, but it's very fast, very physical and you have to be fit to play. Now, I keep up with it and follow as much as I can and I know how tough it is."

That includes giving the game a try himself.

"My wife and I actually got on a co-ed team as adults," he continued. "We got into it because our kids grew up playing; we were always following our own kids around and decided to start our own team."

"Of course we were horrible," Jarvis said with a laugh. "But it was a lot of fun and we learned a lot, and were able to relate to our kids better."

Jarvis, who was born and raised in Memphis, plainly states that he bleeds Tiger blue and that, "There's no place I'd rather be or rather go. Why go make someplace else better when you can make your home better?"

He appears to have passed that trait along to his son.

"I don't know if it's how we were raised or what, but I just always liked being in Memphis," said JJ.

JJ and the rest of the Tiger soccer team will be back at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex, Oct. 23, for Fiesta de Futbol against currently ninth-ranked SMU. Youth 14 and under get in free if they wear their jerseys and the first 100 fans get a coupon for a taco from Taco Bell.

Video: Allison Schatell
Story: Colby Wilson
Graphics: Brandon Kolditz



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