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“When you find something you’re good at, stick with it.”

That’s the lesson UT senior Sam Liggett learned playing the Pokémon trading card game.

Sam Liggett, a senior at UT majoring in supply chain management, is a Pokémon trading card game champion.
Sam Liggett, a senior at UT majoring in supply chain management, is a Pokémon trading card game champion.

Not to be confused with the new Pokémon Go app, which takes players on a virtual journey around the world, the Memphis native fell in love with the old-fashioned card game as a twelve-year-old after visiting a local card shop.

“I was a big fan of the Pokémon TV show and walked into a card shop to see if they carried the cards,” said Liggett. “The owner told me about a competitive Pokémon league that took place each Saturday, and that’s how I learned to play the game.”

He purchased an official rule book but says he learned more by competing against players who were better than him.

“It took me almost a year of to finally reach a competitive level,” said Liggett. “The game involves a lot of critical thinking and strategy.”

No wonder.

There are more than 1,000 Pokémon cards, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and bonus features.

“When I told my mom I wanted to travel around to compete in Pokémon competitions, she was a bit skeptical but realized how important it was to me,” he said. “This was my whole life when I was twelve. I’d spend hours building decks and preparing for competitions.”

By the time Liggett entered UT in the fall of 2013, he’d competed in more than a hundred city championships, twenty-five state championships, fifteen regional championships, nine national championships, and four world championships.

“I’ve won three state championships and too many awards to count,” said Liggett. “I saved up the cash earnings to pay for my fraternity dues and other college expenses.”

But all that time spent competing was put aside when Liggett became a college student.

“To qualify for championships, especially the worlds, you have to play year round,” he said. “I really wanted to just be a student and get the full college experience, go to football games and hang out with friends.”

Liggett is majoring in supply chain management, a program in UT’s Haslam College of Business that is consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally.

“Much of the allure of the game was learning about logistics, probability, and statistics,” said Liggett. “Plus I’m very competitive. That’s part of the reason I picked supply chain management as a major. UT is known for its great program.”

Liggett said every time he steps on an airplane he feels like he should be going to a Pokémon championship.

“The biggest thing I gained from Pokémon was competing against players from all over the world, from places like China, Japan, France, and Canada,” he said. “I enjoyed being around other cultures and traveling to Hawaii, Vancouver, San Diego, and Orlando for the world championships.”

Although Liggett doesn’t compete much these days, he did place thirty-fifth out of a thousand players at the national competition this summer.

As for Pokémon Go, he didn’t even know about it until his friends started texting him while he was working a youth camp in a rural part of West Tennessee.

“It’s completely different from the card game,” said Liggett. “I haven’t gotten into it, but it’s neat to see people walking around and playing it.”

In his spare time, Liggett plays guitar and basketball. He is a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity and Student Alumni Associates and serves as co-director for the Ignite Serves program.

His advice for incoming students?

“Take chances, seize opportunities, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible.”


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,