Gainwell's father, Curtis, confirmed his son's decision to opt out to The Commercial Appeal, saying that concerns about the coronavirus pandemic contributed. Their family has lost four members to COVID-19, including an uncle whose funeral took place this weekend.
"He decided that he didn't want to take any chances with the coronavirus going on. You don't want to to get out there and get sick and bring it to us, his brother or his teammates," Gainwell told The Commercial Appeal.
Gainwell, who would have been a redshirt sophomore, rushed for 1,459 yards last season and had 610 receiving yards. He scored 16 touchdowns for the Tigers and had five plays from scrimmage of 60 yards or longer. Memphis, a member of the American Athletic Conference, opens its season Saturday at home against Arkansas State.
Go Tigers 247Sports was the first to report Sunday that Gainwell was opting out to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. ESPN's Todd McShay ranks Gainwell as the fifth-best running back prospect in the 2021 draft class.
Gainwell was a second-team selection to the Associated Press' preseason All-American team earlier this month. He was the only FBS player last season to rush for more than 1,000 yards and have more than 500 receiving yards.