I just got off the phone with Ken Hatfield, the most winning Razorback football coach by percentage, for a High Profile feature I’m writing on David Bazzel for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I couldn’t help but also ask Hatfield some side questions about college football’s biggest game last week and the current state of the Hogs. Specifically, I was curious as to what he thought of grind-it-out Stanford’s recent domination over Oregon and how that could play into the Razorbacks’ future.
“To be a champion, you’ve got to do one of two things to be successful,” Hatfield said. “You got to do things better than anyone else or you got to do things different than anyone else … like in the days that Texas ran the wishbone. The teams trying to stop it had a hard time trying to stop it on their own practice field, so one year every team in the Southwest conference ran their own version of the wishbone. They had to do it so they could figure out how to stop [the wishbone] and then they still couldn’t stop it because Texas had better players and executed it better.”
So, the other SWC teams went another direction. “That’s when you had Hayden Fry and some other people come in with a single wide receiver and do different other things.” Stanford has been able to capitalize on its enduring reputation for ball-control offenses, Hatfield said. “They have been able to recruit people that style of offense from around the nation because Stanford has such a national draw, and a lot of the things that they were doing, nobody else was recruiting those players for.”
Bill Parcells once told Hatfield the winning formula was similar in the NFL: “You’ve got to take the ball over when there’s four minutes left in the game. You’ve got to run the clock out when the other team knows you’re going to run every play … that other team is paying $30 million for that quarterback for that two-minute offense and the only way you’re going to defeat him is by keeping him on the bench. So to win you’ve got to be able to run the football when the other team is ganging up on the line of scrimmage and knows you’re going to do it. If it works for the NFL, it ought to work good college teams too.”
OK, bear with me: I’m now putting on my referring-to-myself-in-third-person socks:
Demirel: Do you think to a certain extent Stanford’s success against a powerful hurry up offense provides a blueprint for Arkansas success going forward in the SEC?
Hatfield: “The only difference you have is that you got a couple teams in the SEC that are already doing the Stanford thing … then you get back to trying to do something better than them.” For Bielema and his staff, the biggest priority is signing the right players – especially on the lines, he added.
Demirel: Do you think that Arkansas will be able to do better at recruiting when LSU, Alabama and now Texas A&M are closer to the hot spots where so many of these recruits live?
Hatfield: “Certainly, it’s a real big challenge … I would think one of the great assets we have right now is to really to go back in and recruit Texas extremely hard, the way we did. Because, for about 18 years there, nobody in Texas cared about the SEC because it wasn’t in the paper, they never covered it. But now, with A&M coming into the league and the great success they’ve had in two years, every paper in Texas everyday mentions the SEC. Every newspaper. So I think you get a chance of knowing the SEC is important in Texas and and we’re so close to it, where you could get a lot of players where their families could come and see it.”
Demirel: But A&M’s success makes that tougher, as does Baylor’s recent success as well.
Hatfield: “Oh, there’s no doubt about it … while Baylor’s good there, there’s no doubt about it, there’s still some mystique about playing in the SEC. And if you’re a Texas player who’s going to play in the SEC against the great competition you’re going to have, you’ve either got to go to A&M or go to Arkansas. LSU’s going to get all their players from Louisiana – a few from Alabama, a few from Texas – but they’re gonna get them from there. But for a great Texas player who wants to play in the SEC and still wants to be close to home, you’ve got A&M and Arkansas.”
Demirel: It’ll be interesting to see if Arkansas ramps it up there. Also, although Arkansas has tried to develop recruiting in Florida before, it seems like Bielema and some of his assistants are hitting it extremely hard. It’ll be interesting to see if they can make Florida more of a recruiting base than ever have before.
Hatfield: “… You’ve always got to figure out in recruiting what’s your advantage. The one thing I believed we had for a long time which was great in Arkansas was the ability to bring kids in here in redshirt them – let them grow up, and enjoy the beauty of the state and the beauty of the fans, maybe get to be a year or two older than other people too. Almost all of the players we had were redshirted.”
“I mean, you had Steve Atwater and number one [round] draft pick, you had Wayne Martin, a [round] one draft pick, you had Quinn Grovey, one of the greatest quarterbacks we ever had. All of them were redshirted. None of them played as [true] freshmen and they were all great talents. Those extra years here really made a difference both in helping them get a degree and also in their physical development. So I wouldn’t give up on that formula either. Do something different Arkansas, maybe that other people aren’t doing. You just got to do whatever you believe in and I think that Beliema will do whatever he believes in.”
I wrote a feature article for SYNC this week about Arkansas center Travis Swanson, who has developed into one of the SEC’s best offensive linemen and is the centerpiece (in nearly every metaphorical or literal way imaginable) of Bret Bielema’s offense.
I wasn’t able to fit a few interesting tidbits into the story, so I throw them out now:
How Swanson Can Improve
By the way Bielema raves about Swanson, you’d think the guy was already the nation’s best college center of the last few years. “I’d be very, very surprised” if he doesn’t lead the SEC in pancake blocks this season, Bielema told me, despite the fact Swanson’s career highlights so far don’t exactly scream “Shawn Andrews 2.0″
Yes, T-Swan is good. Very good, in fact. But he’s not yet a Rimington Award winner and he hasn’t yet made a first team All-American.
The fifth-year senior can still stand to improve some.
His offensive line coach, Sam Pittman, said Swanson has already learned to play with with explosiveness and “pop” since winter (it helps he’s put on 10 pounds of muscle while shedding body fat).
“Now it’s more about shoulder leverage, hand placement – on a tight nose – things of that nature that we’re working on,” Pittman said.
The leverage issue is something other NFL Draft analysts have also mentioned. ”When he tries to generate push he tends to lean too much and it made him easy to shed for guys like Kirby Ennis of A&M and Isaac Gross of Ole Miss,” writes Tom Melton. “There were times that Swanson really seemed to struggle with speed and quickness in the run game, and that was particularly evident against Ole Miss when Isaac Gross regularly beat him despite being listed as a 6’1”, 255 pound true freshman defensive tackle.”
Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com adds: “He understands blocking angles and generally seals off opponents from the action effectively in the running game but can be beaten inside by quickness and too often drops his head on contact when blocking on the move, leading to experienced defenders occasionally swimming over the top to break free.”
Swanson wasn’t particularly explosive in the run game last year. If he drastically improves there – which Bielema obviously believes it will – there’s no reason to think he couldn’t break into the second or even lower first round.
NFL analyst Chris Mortensen spoke to two NFL scouts he knows and told me that at this point Swanson projects as a second or third round guy. Bielema told me: “That ranking doesn’t even come close, in my opinion, to what his actual ability his, They [scouts] haven’t seen what we’re gonna do with him yet,” he said. “We’re gonna do some center pulls. We gonna do some stuff where people are gonna say ‘Wow. This guy has really got something.’”
Sorry, Mike Anderson
Bielema said one reason Swanson projects as first team All-SEC this season is that he has outstanding footwork. “His feet never leave the framework of his body. Travis is probably 6-5, but he plays like a guy who’s 5-10. His feet stay under his body. As people get longer, they tend to play with longer strides so it’s the players who grow taller and yet don’t over stride that become successful.”
“[Former Wisconsin player] J.J. Watt, defensive end, he’s a 2nd year player and the best defensive player in the NFL, he’s 6-6 but his feet never play out of his box,” Bielema said. “That allows you to play under control,”
I mentioned to Bielema that the opposite situation plays out in basketball, where it’s typically better for players to “get wide” and use a long reach.
This literally got Bielema out of his seat and – with somewhat surprising alacrity – into a defensive basketball position.
“Basketball coaches are the worst freaking thing to ever happen to football coaches,” he said as he got into a crouch, arms spread wide. “Because their breakdown means this. How many football players you ever seen like that? If your ass is behind your heels, you’ll never play football. But in basketball, your ass is to be behind your heels all the time. That’s the breakdown position.”
“But in basketball you can’t run anybody over. In football, you have to be able to withstand pressure and fight.”
I Want To Pancake Block the Petrinos
If you’re like me, you dig stats. Not just the normal boilerplate stuff, but the more advanced stuff. More = good.
Not so under the Bobby and Paul Petrino regime. The former Arkansas Razorback coaches didn’t disclose stats for offensive linemen. If like me you want to know how Swanson’s pancake blocks and grading percentage improved from year to year, tough luck – the Petrino-era coaches didn’t pass these numbers on to the rest of us.
I’ve been told the new staff will keep better track of these numbers and will share some of them with the public. They should. Especially since a few of them have built reputations as developers of future star NFL linemen.
Swanson As Sensei
Travis arrived on the Fayetteville campus in 2009, the same year that Arkansas’ last great center – Jonathan Luigs – left. Swanson said he didn’t have the benefit of an experienced center to show him the ropes during his redshirt freshman and freshman years.
He credits other offensive lineman – DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez -as well as Ryan Mallett with showing him to be vocal and assertive as a leader. Nowadays, he’s eager to pass on his knowledge and serve as a mentor to younger O-linemen on this year’s team: ”I’m gonna try to help the younger guys understand because when I was younger I didn’t really have that.”
Swanson got thrown to the wolves early. He made his first SEC start on the road against a strong Georgia team and as a freshman eventually secured the starting job of a team that made the Sugar Bowl.
The interior defensive linemen Swanson deals with are some of the best in the nation. I asked him who have been the toughest to block in his career and most of them come from early in his career: Auburn’s Nick Fairley, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Mississippi State’s Pernell McPhee, LSU’s Marcell Dareus and Drake Nevis.
Since moving to Fayetteville from his Houston-area home, Swanson has gone full circle with his housemates.
In 2009, he room with Bryan Boehner.
Last year, Swanson lived with teammates Brey Cook and Luke Charpentier in a big house. This year, just like in Texas, he’s living with his younger brother – a UA freshman.
For more about Swanson’s life, including his biggest off-field news of the year, check out this SYNC article.
Traditionally, one of the strongest positions for the Arkansas Razorbacks has been at fullback. That changed with the advent of Bobby Petrino’s spread passing offense, which de-emphasized the fullback’s role, but we see its reemergence in the Bret Bielema era.
Today’s torchbearer is senior Kiero Small, a 5’10″, 238-pound bowling ball of a bruiser whose health this season will play a crucial role in whether Arkansas can effectively move the ball against the likes of Alabama and LSU.
Who, though, is the best fullback in program history?
I deal with one such candidate in a recent Sporting Life Arkansas article about Mark Pierce. Pierce had all the tangibles you’d want in a fullback and at 6 feet tall and 248 pounds (with a 4.5 40 yard dash), he certainly knew how to use them. Heading into his junior season, he was considered the nation’s best fullback by the Sporting News. Unfortunately, Pierce didn’t develop the intangibles, though, and the results were absolutely tragic.
Here are other top candidates:
1. Leon “Muscles” Campbell (6’0″, 199 pounds)
Campbell was a four-year letterman at Arkansas, rushing for 1,335 yards on 295 carries from 1946-49. The fullback-linebacker held the one-game rushing record of 236 yards until 1973.
He may have the coolest nickname origin story in Arkansas history. It’s found in his obituary: Campbell’s teammate Clyde Scott said when Campbell arrived at Arkansas, he walked into Scott’s room with a railroad spike and a towel. He wrapped the towel around the spike and pulled, bending the iron rod. (Man did kids sure figure out ways to entertain themselves before Playstation 3!)
Soon thereafter, Campbell became known as “Muscles.”
Campbell played for Baltimore, Chicago and Pittsburgh in a six-year NFL career. He scored his only professional touchdown on a 1952 kickoff return. His best year as a pro was in 1953, when he had 659 yards rushing, receiving and on kick returns. He worked for Reynolds Metals Co. in Bauxite for 30 years.
Campbell died at age 75 of malignant mesothelioma on September 2, 2002.
2. Henry Moore
Moore was consensus all-SWC in 1954 and 1955 and led the Hogs in rushing during their 1954 SWC championship season. He was selected as the 19th overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft and played two seasons as a pro. He won an NFL title his rookie season with the New York Giants.
3. Preston Carpenter (6-2, 190 pounds)
A highly versatile player, who wore “blocking back” as only one of his varied hats. Also a devastating linebacker for Hogs in 1953 and 1954 who was all-SWC as halfback in 1955. Led Cleveland Browns in rushing in 1956 and receiving in 1958, and was a Pro Bowl selection as tight end for Pittsburgh in 1962.
Funny story, as told to me by amateur Razorbacks historian Jim Rasco: Carpenter and his brother, Lew, both played for the Browns in the mid 1950s. Cleveland acquired some rookie running back named Jim Brown before the 1957 season, and at the start of that season, Brown sat down with the Carpenter brothers and made sure to let them know that he deserved the ball and that he expected them to block well for him.
They obliged; the rest is history.
Two of central Arkansas’ greatest prep running backs have also played parts in boosting a mentoring program for young, African-American males.
The national Our Kids Program is spearheaded by black officers in various cities’ police departments. It’s specifically aimed at ameliorating a socio-economic “epidemic” which program leaders say afflicts black communities around the nation.
As profiled in this Sync week’s issue, Little Rock has an affiliate program in which teens at four public schools weekly gather for mentoring sessions with police and volunteer adult males. The program’s director makes no bones about requiring everyone directly involved with the program to be African-American:
As [Donald] Northcross sees it, the problems facing many black communities in this nation add up to a full-blown epidemic.
Compared to every other race and gender group, black males are more likely to skip class, not turn in homework, drop out of high school, get arrested for drug use and serve years in prison. Indeed, according to the national O.K. Program, one in three black males will be imprisoned at some point in their lives. Lengthy jail sentences leave yet more single-parent households behind, setting the stage for the entire vicious cycle to entrap younger generations.
How to break free?
Design black male-oriented solutions for what are clearly black male-oriented problems. “I think there needs to be programs that are geared toward specific communities,” Northcross says. “We have a serious problem. We’re not very interested in how it looks — political correctness and things like that.”
Last fall, former Auburn running back Michael Dyer appeared as a guest keynote speaker during a mentoring session. Dyer, a former national championship game MVP, spoke about challenges he had to overcome during a hardknock childhood in Little Rock. Dyer’s still trying to overcome challenges: the 22-year-old spent the last school year at nearby Arkansas Baptist College after tumultuous departures from Auburn and Arkansas State.
Visit syncweekly.com for more on Dyer and D-Mac.
Pop music has the Grammys. Cinema has the Oscars. Literature’s got the Pulitzer. And now, in the world of local high school sports: the All Arkansas Preps Awards.
More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural awards ceremony on Saturday night in Little Rock that honored top male and female athletes and coaches in eight sports, as chosen by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Awards were also given for academic achievement, community service and perseverance through sickness or injury.
The banquet’s signature event was an appearance by four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning. The Denver Broncos quarterback gave a keynote speech and fielded questions from emcee Keith Jackson, a color commentator for Razorbacks football who runs the Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids program in his native Little Rock.
Manning, who’s entering his 15th NFL season, encouraged the 300 student-athletes in the Statehouse Convention Center ballroom to work hard and not see their upcoming college years as only a stepping stone but to “enjoy the experience, enjoy the journey.”
Manning retraced much of his own journey as the second son of Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning growing up in Lousiana to Super Bowl MVP with the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton, who never lost to Arkansas during his University of Tennessee career, sprinkled Razorback-related anecdotes throughout the 45-minute Q & A with Jackson.
Below are edited excerpts:
Q: What are some of your memorable moments playing against the Razorbacks 1994-1997?
A: … I remember my senior year here in Little Rock. I always enjoy talking to my dad about the great old college stadiums … He got to play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but he never got to play at War Memorial … The the thing I remember about that game, we put a trick play in that week. We put in the ol’ pitch to the running back, throw it to the quarterback, right, and I remember we ran it in practice all week just about perfect. I schooled ‘em every time. I had been dreaming all week about catching a touchdown – I’d never done that before.
And sure enough, during the game we got a perfect look … and I pitch it to [running back] Jamal Lewis and he throws it back to me – a perfect pass – and I caught it and I got two yards. Their defense was a lot faster than our scout team’s.
Q: Talk some about Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball, who played for Bret Bielema.
A: Montee Ball was a four-year running back at Wisconsin. He led the NCAA in touchdowns, so we’re excited to have him on the Broncos. We had a little team function the other day and I was asking him about Coach Bielema and he was saying how [instrumental] he was for him and his career, and how lucky he was to play for him. He just thought the world of him, so I could tell [Bielema] is gonna make a great transition to Arkansas.
Q: What do you treasure most about the South?
A: I think Southern hospitality. My parents are from Mississippi, I grew up in New Orleans … Just the people, I really enjoy getting back to New Orleans, getting back to Tennessee. I’ve been here to Little Rock a number of times. Everybody’s been so nice to me here. The Arkansas secondary was always so nice to me.
Q: We normally see you so serious, but there’s a funny side to you. You had a chance to host Saturday Night Live.
A: … The one that people always talk about is the United Way skit, where I’m throwing the football at the kids. A lot of people have asked “Peyton, please tell me you weren’t really hurting those kids.” And I promise you folks, that was a Nerf football … and all these kids, they were all child actors which is a kind of disturbing field in its own way. And all the parents were there the entire time when we were doing that skit and the director said ‘You gotta hit them in the face, you gotta do it.’ And I had to have a little talk with myself before I could do it.
But I felt a little more comfortable when I heard one of the parents yelling at the director ‘I want him to hit my kid in the face!’”
I recently gave myself a concussion, so forceful were the repeated slaps to my forehead as I read the following column by Democrat-Gazette columnist Bradley Gitz.
On the surface, it seems Gitz would be someone who bases his arguments on, oh, actual reason. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Illinois and teaches at Lyon College, which has a fairly high academic reputation among mid South private colleges. But Gitz packed his column with so much sloppy thinking, overgeneralizing and sophomoric name-calling, I shudder at the prospect of him teaching our nation’s future leaders to think.
Below are the most egregious excerpts, with my own comments following:
Football’s risky—so what?
Published Feb 18, 2013
“The best thing about this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t how exciting the game was (although it was certainly that) but that there were so few of those ridiculous flags for breathing on the quarterbacks or accidentally touching the receivers that make fans groan and smack their foreheads.Maybe Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the officials telling them to put the sissy stuff away and let the players actually play the game, for once.The powder-puff probably won’t stay put away for long though, as football at all levels is now squarely in the cross-hairs of our self-appointed pleasure police. They don’t much like football for the same reason they don’t like fast food, tobacco, fizzy soft drinks, SUVs, or guns—because the rest of us less-sensitive types in flyover country do.”
“Dedicated to a life of pestering their neighbors over their unhealthy habits and unenlightened attitudes, our hand-wringing “girly-men” have, in a moment of sudden revelation, noticed that football is violent and dangerous (imagine that!).”
The former co-owner, and current co-chairman, of the San Francisco 49ers is a Little Rock Catholic High graduate who grew up in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood and learned statistics by playing the horses at Oakland Park. In 2010, former Arkansas Life editor Kane Webb flew to the Bay Area for the following profile of John York:
(click on the images to make them easier to read)
A recent Sports Illustrated profile of an athlete every bit as impressive as Bo Jackson
There’s a point near the start of “You Don’t Know Bo,” ESPN’s upcoming “30 for 30″ episode about one of the early 1990s’ most iconic ahtletes, where the Bo Jackson praises really start gushing. At one point, an interviewee suggests Jackson may be equal if not greater than Jim Thorpe in terms of all-around athletic excellence.
Bo Jackson: history’s greatest athlete?
As the movie walks through his long list of accomplishments, there is an argument to be made. Jackson, at 6-1 and 220 pounds, presented a combination of power, speed and ability nobody had ever seen before in baseball and football. At the NFL Draft Combine, he ran a 4.12 in the 40 yard dash; he starred in the NFL and MLB , becoming the the first person named an All-Star in two major American sports leagues.
Jackson’s versatility certainly makes him one of the greatest athletes of the modern sports era (and, in terms of team sports, of all time), but if size, strength, speed and versatility are main criteria for grading an athlete’s rank, then we should consider Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah as someone who has entered Jackson’s stratosphere.
Let’s get this out of the way: Ansah hasn’t achieved anything near the level of success in his chosen sports as Jackson. He grew up playing soccer in Ghana, but as a teenager dreamed of playing in the NBA with LeBron James. Five years ago, he arrived in the United States, and tried to parlay his 39-inch vertical jump into a spot on the Brigham Young University basketball team.
He was cut.
Instead, Ansah walked on to the BYU track team, and promptly ran a 200-meter dash in 21.9 seconds. Over the next couple years, Ansah used his 6-6, 250-pound frame to dominate at intramural baskeball. He was so impressive that football players told him he should give their a sport a spin. At last, he gave in.
At the start of BYU’s 2010 summer camp, Ansah told head coach Bronco Mendenhall he wanted to play the game for the first time in his life. He didn’t know the rules. He had never lifted weights before. But he was big, fast, smart and eager to learn, as Jeff Benedict writes in Sports Illustrated.
Amazingly, two and a half years later, Ansah is a dominating nose tackle on the nation’s third-ranked defense. Despite not starting until the fourth week, he has 48 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss and is projects to be a first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
This, from a neophyte who was shoving his thigh pad into his knee pad slot two years ago. This, from a guy who until recently ran around the field without the slightest clue of how to tackle. “He was not lowering down and gearing up to hit someone,” another BYU player told Benedict. “He was just running. That allowed him to hit opponents with a speed that they were not prepared for. But he also wasn’t naturally protecting himself the way football players do. So he was taking blows to his body that most guys would never be able to endure.”
Now that Ansah actually understands the game, and now that he’s up to 270 pounds, he is a major pro prospect. “The combination of his height, weight and speed is probably unmatched,” one NFL scout told Benedict. As is Ansah’s story.
Jackson will always be considered one of the greatest athletes because he played so well – and so spectacularly – in two pro leagues. Ansah won’t have that chance (unless LeBron hears about his story and takes him under his wing as a publicity stunt), but his multi-faceted sports background, ability to quickly adapt to a brand-new game and a height, weight and speed combo that’s off the charts make him the 21st century version of, well, Bo Jackson.
Without exception, there are and always will be exceptions.
We all (hopefully) learn this at some time or another, and my most recent lesson came via the expansive readership of the New York Times.
I wrote a piece for the paper’s college sports blog about how college football is the only major American team sport in which there hasn’t been a freshman/rookie to win that sport’s most prestigious individual award. In college football’s case, it’s the Heisman.
In pro sports, there has been a lot more opportunities for first-year player to win such honors because rookies have played on the same teams as veterans since the major leagues’ inceptions. In the college ranks, I knew freshmen played on their own teams, apart from upperclassmen, until 1972. I assumed that was the year the NCAA first allowed freshmen to play with upperclassman, and so naturally I assumed there could not have been a freshmen Heisman finalist before that year.
I was wrong, as ”Todd D” from Tampa Bay, Florida pointed out in my blog post’s comments.
Turns out that during World War II, Georgia Tech freshmen played because there was the shortage of able-bodied men who’d left to fight overseas. And in 1942, a scatback named Clint Castleberry injected life into a Yellow Jackets program which had had only two winning seasons since 1930:
Standing only five-foot-nine, a hundred and fifty-five pounds, Castleberry did not allow his diminutive stature to overshadow his talent and immense heart. Upon entering Tech, he had never played in a game in which his team had lost—and the string continued in the fall of 1942. In essence, Castleberry became Seabiscuit in football pads, revitalizing Tech with incredible touchdown runs—that inspired at least one sportswriter to marvel that he “ran like a crazed jackrabbit,” defensive gems, and a Chip Hilton too-good-to-be-true personality.
Before a late-season knee injury, Castleberry led Georgia Tech to a 9-0 record and into the national Top 5. He played only that one season before heading off to war himself, but impressed everyone and finished third in the Heisman voting. There wouldn’t be another freshman Heisman finalist until another Georgian – Herschel Walker – finished third in 1980. According to football historian Bill Chastain, Castleberry is the only Georgia Tech player with his number retired.
If the program decided to enshrine two jerseys, who would be a top candidate? How about a 19-year-old from Decatur who arrived on campus the next season and developed into a two-time All-SEC QB, as well as a star in baseball and football?
Frank Broyles wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.
In last week’s post about Norris Armstrong, I mentioned players from his NFL team competed in two games in Arkansas in the early 1920s.
I wrote this might have possibly been the only times NFL-associated games were played in Arkansas. Turns out, there have been at least three more such games. All three games were preseason exhibition games and featured teams which had lodged in Hot Springs before hopping on the train for Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium:
1. September 10, 1949 – The world champion Philadelphia Eagles trained in Hot Springs before playing the the Los Angeles Rams to a 24-24 tie in Little Rock.
2. September 1, 1951- The Eagles trained in Hot Springs before losing to the Los Angeles Rams* 31-26.
Twenty-seven thousand people attended this game; it’s fair to assume many were there to see the Eagles’ Clyde Scott, who’d earned All-American honors for the Arkansas Razorback in 1948 before being drafted by Philadelphia the next year. He only played five seasons in the NFL but 1951 would be his finest. He ran for 151 yards, caught for 212 yards and scored four touchdowns altogether.
3. August 23, 1952 – The Detroit Lions trained in Hot Springs, and beat the Eagles 7-3 at War Memorial in front of more than 22,000 spectators. Detroit’s Doak Walker scored the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.
This time, fans had two former Arkansas Razorback standouts to cheer, as the Lions had drafted kicker Pat Summerall. This would be one of the only games Summerall played for the Lions as an injury cut his rookie season short. He played the rest of his career in Chicago and New York. Summerall ended up making 47% of the field goals he attempted in his career (with a high of 69% in 1959).
At first glance, these numbers look absolutely horrible.
Then I wondered whether field goal accuracy through the decades had improved (in part due to emergence of soccer style kicking and improving training methods). Sure enough, it has, based on these pro-football-reference.com numbers: