For the past two seasons, Jacob Likes has been the centerpiece of the Memphis Tigers’ offense. The unmistakable 6’3″, 305-pound center has been a protector and a roadblock for one of the nation’s most high-scoring offenses. While he’s been at the heart of the on-field action, Likes has been busy pouring his heart — and time — into his hometown away from the field.
Home is Where the Heart is for Memphis man Jacob Likes
“It means the world to me,” Likes says of his contributions both on and off the field for Memphis. “That was one of the big selling points of me staying at Memphis, is being able to play for my hometown, play for my community, with all my friends and family in the stands.”
Dressed in a heather grey Memphis tee and sporting a blue baseball cap with the distinctive Tigers logo, Likes outwardly screams “Memphis football.” Yet, in talking to him during a sit-down interview for College Football Network, you can tell that he’s a Memphis man through and through. The city that raised him is deeply ingrained within the sixth-year offensive lineman.
He’s a Memphis native who played four seasons at Christian Brothers before staying at home to represent his city at the college football level. His strong feelings and connections to the place that he comes from have inspired Likes to use his football platform to give back to the community that developed, shaped, molded, and ultimately put him on a footballing pedestal.
“This city has done so much for me. Whether it’s the schools that I’ve been to, the connections I’ve made, the people around here. It just feels great to give back to the city that’s given so much to me.”
Likes has poured his heart and many hours back into the Memphis community via a multitude of programs, initiatives, charities, and events while he’s been a member of the Tigers. Ahead of the 2023 college football campaign, that work has been recognized with a nomination to the 32nd AllState AFCA Good Works Team.
The team celebrates the leadership and dedication to the community of college football players, with the nominated players displaying character, selflessness, and the willingness to serve others.
It’s not about what you do on the football field; it’s about how you impact others away from it.
“I think it’s very important,” Likes explains the importance of using his platform to benefit others. “College athletes and coaches, we have such a platform that it’s very important for us to use it. We all mean so much to each community, they give us so much, it’s important that we give back to the community.”
Shaping Future Generations of Memphis Men
Through the football program, the Tigers’ 901 Fund, and on his own initiative, Likes is involved with a laundry list of non-profit organizations and charitable initiatives that touch people from all corners of the Memphis community. He has used Name, Image, and Likeness to benefit with donations and promotions while using his time to make appearances at events.
While acknowledging his desire to use his platform as a college football player to give back, Likes’ interaction with these causes predates his time at the Memphis football program. The love for helping in his hometown began during his time at Christian Brothers, where he saw firsthand the work of Madonna Learning — one of the initiatives he’s actively involved with today.
“I fell in love with Madonna and what they were doing because every year our football team would have a group of Madonna kids come to practice with us. They’d go through practice with us, run through bags, that sort of stuff. Working with the kids, they bring a smile to my face. If I can make their day happy, they make mine ten times happier.”
Likes recalls playing in basketball tournaments arranged by Memphis Athletic Ministries — “they do a great job with the community, helping the kids out and giving them a spot where they can work athletically” — another hometown link that inspires the work that he does now for the community.
Likes has also spent time working with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Youth Villages, and visits Sea Isle Elementary School. Helping to shape the future for the youth in his hometown is a key element of the Memphis center’s charitable endeavors and giving back, and it comes from a place in his heart that is deeply rooted in his own experiences of the local community.
“I remember when I was a kid,” Likes begins to explain where his desire to impact the youth in the Memphis community comes from. “When I was in elementary, one of the varsity guys would come and talk to us and that would make my week.”
“I remember whenever I would meet a college football player, it didn’t matter if he started, if he was on the bench, it didn’t make a difference to me, it always changed my outlook on the week. If I had a bad day, it made it so much better.”
“Every kid might not be like that, but a couple of those kids that I see might be like that. To me, it’s worth it if I can have a positive impact on their day, if I can give them a positive message that sticks with them, that they might not take so well from somebody else.”
Ready to Give Back to the Community With Success on the Field
Likes’ work in the Memphis community stretches to the promotion of blood donation via Vitalant and working with the Memphis Crime Commission in their Walk Against Gun Violence — “I think we can all agree that gun violence is bad” — helping protect the future and ensure that home can be where the heart is for generations of Memphis kids like he once was.
“At Memphis football we care a lot about community service and giving back. We put a lot of hours and emphasis into that.”
The Memphis center calls it “an honor” to be recognized for his work with his community, adding NFF Hampshire Honor Society accolades to his AllState AFCA Good Works Team nomination this offseason.
However, he knows that doesn’t come without the platform of playing college football, and with just a few weeks until the season opener against Bethune-Cookman, he’s laser-focused on giving back to the community by delivering success on the field.
“I feel like the guys are hungry,” Likes sums up the mood in the Memphis dressing room ahead of the 2023 college football season. “The past two years hasn’t exactly what we’d planned for our seasons. But, we know Coach Silverfield has us on the right path. We know we have the right direction for the program. We realize this year is the year to put it all together.”
“We’re just hungry. We’re ready to go. We’re ready for that first kick-off.”