Is Joe Adams the best ever receiver from central Arkansas?

He’s flash, he’s dash, he’s sizzle, smoke and more.

Joe Adams, the consummate Razorback receiver and big-play Poobah seems to have it all. The quicksilver senior accelerates into this season coming off his best year yet, punctuated by a 9-catch performance against Ohio State in January’s Sugar Bowl that ties for fourth-most in UA history. With five career 100-yard games under his belt, also fourth all-time, he will likely capture a few career records this season. Don’t forget about his proficient punt returns, either. With an average of 15.56 yards, Adams finished second in the SEC last season.

As good as Adams is, does he rank as the best ever from central Arkansas?

Warning: when wading into such all-time debates, one risks getting lost in a forest of parameters (e.g. What exactly is central Arkansas? We talking wide receivers only?).

Those are questions to tackled soon enough. But first the fun part. Below are some top candidates for this title, with experts’ input.

For rare photos of these guys circa high school, check this original version published in Sync magazine.

Joe Adams

– 5-11, 175 pounds

– As a high school sophomore, scored eight TDs as quarterback and receiver at Parkview. Transferred to Central Arkansas Christian, and rushed 75 times for 857 yards and 14 TDs as a junior. He caught 29 passes for 633 yards and nine TDs. As a senior, he caught 33 passes for 770 yards and scored a total of 25 TDs. ranked him as the No. 2 prospect in Arkansas; tabbed him as the nation’s No. 8 cornerback.

Wally Hall, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor: “Joe came back from a stroke as a sophomore [in college]. His mental toughness is off the charts. He’s quick, elusive, got running back eyes …. if you’re going strictly with receivers, Joe’s a cut above.” projects Adams as the 21st-best receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft, 16 spots behind Arkansas teammate Greg Childs.

Derek Russell

– 6-1, 180 pounds

– A track and football superstar at Little Rock Central in the mid 1980s, the hyperversatile Russell’s exploits are the stuff of legend. In the first hurdles event of his life, he set the state’s overall 110-meter high hurdles mark with a 13.4 clocking. That record still stands. As a junior, he caught 20 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns, but Central’s coaches moved him to tailback his senior season to spearhead their I-formation attack. He racked up 723 yards on 131 carries and 298 yards on 16 catches for nine total touchdowns, and led Central to a state championship.

Bernie Cox, LR Central High football coach of 35 years : “Because of foot speed, strength and what they ended up accomplishing in college and the pros, Derek Russell and Keith Jackson are in there close to the top.”

Russell became possibly the most elusive receiver in Razorback history. As a freshman, he averaged 18.6 yards per catch and set a UA single season record by upping that to 26.4 yards as a sophomore. His production dipped as a junior (17 catches), but he finished strong as a senior, snagging 43 passes for 897 yards and eight touchdowns.

Russell played seven seasons in the NFL. His best was with Denver in 1993, when he finished ninth in the league with a 16.3 yards per reception average.

Brendan Cook

-6-1, 180 pounds

-The name, forgotten by many, conjures thoughts of what might have been. As a junior at Little Rock Catholic High School, Cook caught 27 passes for 456 yards. As a senior, he caught 34 passes for 786 yards and earned Super Prep and Street & Smith’s All-America honors. Cook chose Arkansas over Notre Dame, but early in college struggled through personal issues and injuries. As a redshirt freshman in 1990, he caught one pass – a 16-yarder against SMU. In January 1991, he was found dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Robert Farrell

-The 6-4 wideout burst into the state spotlight in 1974, when he gained nearly 160 yards in a highly anticipated matchup against #1 Parkview at Quigley Stadium, Bernie Cox said. Although Central lost that game in front of more than 10,000 people, Farrell’s established a reputation that helped garner Parade All-America honors a year later.

Wadie Moore, longtime Arkansas Gazette prep sports editor: “Probably the slowest guy of all, but he had great hands. He never dropped it.” (n.b. In college, Farrell ran a 4.6 40-yard dash)

Wally Hall: “A great possession receiver, great hops, great hands.”
As a Razorback, Farrell saved his best for last. An all-SWC selection as a senior, he snared 21 passes for 401 yards. A pivotal TD catch against Baylor in the 1979 homecoming game helped propel Arkansas toward the 1980 Sugar Bowl. After failing to make the Los Angeles Rams, Farrell briefly worked as a grad assistant under Arkansas coach Lou Holtz.
In an upcoming post, I’ll examine the merits of other top candidates for this position. Guys like Oklahoma’s Keith Jackson, SMU’s Emanuel Tolbert, LSU’s Ken Kavanaugh and Alabama’s Don Hutson (Hutson is for those of you who think Pine Bluff is central Arkansas).
[polldaddy poll=5385335]

Rock Steady: Archie Goodwin and Jarnell Stokes slay Team Canada’s 7-feet-4 Goliath

When it counted most, Archie Goodwin came up big.
The high recruited Little Rock guard led an assortment of all-American caliber players to the title of the Nike Global Challenge on Sunday night, and did so in assertive fashion.
With swooping layups, dunks, feathery runners, and jumpers of nearly every distance, the rising senior scored 11 points in the pivotal fourth quarter of his USA Midwest team’s 99-94 win against Team Canada in Oregon.
The US team trailed 81-78 going into the last quarter, but Goodwin and Jarnell Stokes helped them claw back into the game. Goodwin hit four of five field goal attempts, including a layup, dunk, 15-foot jumper, and two runners, while Stokes battled the 7-4 Sim Bhullar inside.
Early in the quarter, Stokes showed the ruggedness that makes him one of the most highly recruited post players of the class of 2012, as he bulled baseline for a Carmelo Anthonyesque layup. Although Bhullar did block one of Stokes’ later interior shots, Stokes still helped Goodwin ice the game from the free throw line in the last minutes.
Goodwin made three of four free throws, missing his last attempt with his team up 95-91 with 21 seconds to go.
But he scrambled to the ball, stripped it from the lumbering Bhullar’s meaty paws and managed to fling it back into play despite falling out of bounds. Teammate Terry Rozier caught it, and made two free throws to essentially end it.
As the tourney’s waning seconds ticked down, Goodwin threw the ball high into the air and excitedly clapped hands with his teammates and coach.
His summer, riddled by injury and disappointing losses, ended on the brightest possible note.

The Nike Global Challenge is an 8-team, 12-game tournament featuring the top high school talent and best U19 players from international teams. Below are the stats of Goodwin and Stokes in their three wins:

USA Midwest 103, Germany 58
Stokes: 15 points on 6-12 field goals, 3-4 free throws, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 0 turnovers
Goodwin: 6 points on 3-8 FGs (0-2 3pts), 0-0 FTs, 1 reb, 3 assists, 3 stls, 3 TOs

USA Midwest 121, USA East 101
Stokes: 0 points on 0-1 FGs, 0-2 FTs, 14 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk, 1 TO
Goodwin: 23 points on 11-19 FGs (1-5 3pts), 0-0 FTs, 1 ast, 0 TO

USA Midwest 99, Canada 94
Stokes: 13 points on 5-8 FGs, 3-4 FTs, 8 rebs,  2 TOs
Goodwin: 23 points on 9-15 FGs (2-4 3pts), 3-4 FTs, 4 rebs, 1 ast, 3 stls, 4 TOs

Tournament highlight video available here.

Friday Sports Sear


Football leads to more nonfatal, heat-related emergency room visits than any other activity in the United States, according to a report issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this summer, like in all summers, the heat has claimed lives, too.  


Disturbingly detailed breakdown of SEC team ranks and All-America picks in all major preseason polls

In these parts, it’s practically an annual epidemic.

The ice cream has melted, and the milk’s gone sour.

Yes, daddy did it again.

Nearing the end of a dutiful grocery trip, he dared walk through the magazine aisle, convinced he possessed the steely resolve to sneak no more than a glance at its glorious collection of preseason college football issues.

Pfffh. Yeah, right.

Forgetful football fanatics, rejoice.

This summer, help is here for you and your poor, gagging kinfolk. Ever at your service, the Sports Seer has scoured the best parts of those glossy stat-filled sirens so you don’t have to.

I’ve targeted each mag’s Top 5, the SEC teams in the Top 25, and the Razorbacks and Tide selected by outlets releasing preseason All-America teams. I’ve even thrown in a few online outlets for good measure and poll compilations for good measure.

Just know most of these publications prognosticated in April or May, after spring practices wrapped. Some notable stuff has happened since then, such as Ohio State’s program combusting.

Big Papa AP poll is coming down the slide, but you’ll have to wait until August 20th until splashdown. In the meantime, here are other batches of speculatory crack cocaine to tide you over.


1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Florida State

10. Arkansas
11. South Carolina
16. Georgia
20. Florida
21. Mississippi State
24. Auburn

— Eight SEC Teams in Top 25

— Alabama players* make up five of the eleven SEC players selected to first and second All-America teams; Knile Davis: Second team All-America

* I tallied Alabama preseason All-America selections b/c that program seems to have set the standard this summer. 

Sporting News

1. LSU
2. Oklahoma
3. Alabama
4. Stanford
5. Oregon

11. Arkansas
15. Mississippi State
19. South Carolina
21. Auburn

— Six SEC Teams in Top 25

— Alabama had three of the ten SEC players on first and second All-America teams; Joe Adams and Knile Davis, the “most underrated player in the country”: third team All-Americans.

Athlon Sports

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. Oregon
4. Florida State
5. Boise State

8. LSU
14. Georgia
16. Arkansas
18. Florida
21. South Carolina

— Six SEC teams in Top 25

— Alabama had three of the ten SEC players selected to first and second All-America teams

— Knile Davis, on the Heisman Trophy watch list: Second team; Jake Bequette: Third team

Phil Steele’s

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. Boise State
4. Oregon State
5. Virginia Tech

7. LSU
9. Georgia
13. Arkansas
14. South Carolina

— Five SEC teams in Top 25

— Alabama had five of the 12 SEC players selected to first and second All-America teams (Bequette, Childs and Franklin: Third team, Adams: Fourth team)

Blue Ribbon

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Stanford
5. Oregon

10. South Carolina
14. Arkansas
16. Georgia
21. Mississippi State

— Six SEC teams in Top 25, Andy Staples

1. Oklahoma
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. LSU
5. Stanford

8. South Carolina
13. Arkansas
18. Auburn
22. Mississippi State

— Six SEC teams in the Top 25, Dennis Dodd

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Oregon
5. Stanford

13. Arkansas
15. Auburn
17. South Carolina
20. Mississippi State
23. Georgia
25. Florida

— Eight SEC teams in the Top 25, Mark Schlabach

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Florida State
4. Oregon
5. LSU

11. Arkansas
17. Georgia
19. South Carolina
20. Florida
25. Mississippi State

— Seven SEC teams in Top 25

Man cannot live by one ESPN source alone. The following was slapped together by a 38-person panel of the Mothership’s finest statniks and talking heads:

ESPN’s College Football Live

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Boise State

8. South Carolina
12. Arkansas
18. Florida
21. Mississippi State
22. Auburn

— Seven SEC teams in the Top 25

USA Today Coaches Poll

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Florida

12. South Carolina
14. Arkansas
19. Auburn
20. Mississippi State
22. Georgia
23. Florida

-Eight SEC teams in Top 25

As usual, the SEC bestrides the nation like a chinstrapped Colossus. This season, though, the league appears deeper than usual. Because of the rise of South Carolina and Mississippi State, SEC sauce coats nearly a full third of the Top 25 lists of and Lindy’s. Only the Cleveland, Ohio-based Phil Steele had fewer than six SEC teams in his Top 25.

Meanwhile, Arkansas steadily climbs toward the perennial Top-10 status it so craves. After being ranked between No. 16 and No. 21 in last season’s polls, its average ranking is around 13 this season.

Arkansas finished last season ranked No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll. It last finished that high in 1988.

For some of you stat geeks, the above numbers simply don’t quench an undying thirst for data. You want more, and you should know more is out there to be given. A few geniuses have taken the process a step farther – calculating preseason Top 25 ranks by compiling polls of various national publications. I present two below:

This consensus poll extracts “votes” from the published polls of 15 websites and magazines. Teams ranked No. 1 get 25 points and so on down to one point for those ranked 25th.

1. Oklahoma, 367 points
2. Alabama, 349 points
3. LSU, 336 points
4. Oregon, 335 points
5. Florida State, 282 points
12. Arkansas, 206 points
13. South Carolina, 179 points
19. Mississippi State, 77 points
20. Georgia, 74 points
23. Auburn, 58 points
25. Florida, 52 points

— Eight SEC Teams in Top 25

Southeastern Conference office

For media days, the SEC sicced its infohounds on the pages of Athlon, Blue Ribbon, Kickoff, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and Sporting News. They dug up the following average national rankings by compiling those publications’ Top 25 polls.

1. Oklahoma, 1.57
2. Alabama, 1.71
3. Oregon, 3.71
4. LSU, 4.43
5. Boise State, 5.43

12. Arkansas, 12.57
13. South Carolina, 13.29
17. Georgia, 17.57
21. Florida, 22.71
23. Mississippi State, 23.14

Only seven SEC teams ranked in the Top 25?!!

C’mon, SEC office, you can self-promote better than this. Next season, save yourself some time and use’s numbers.

Arkcentrism in the House

At least two Little Rock-based publications have churned out Top 25 rankings. Not surprisingly, Arkansas gets the most love in their pages.

Hooten’s Arkansas Football

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Oregon
5. Boise State

8. Arkansas
12. South Carolina
14. Florida
17. Mississippi State
18. Auburn

— Seven SEC teams in Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. LSU
4. Oregon
5. Florida State

10. Arkansas
13. South Carolina
17. Georgia
19. Mississippi State
22. Florida
24. Auburn

— Eight SEC teams in Top 25

For photos and a look at UCA’s preseason rankings, check out a previous edition of this article at

Sports Sear 8/2

  • D-Mac is looking good at Oakland Raiders training camp.
  • Something like 2,100 UA alumni live in the Memphis metro area,  less than Alabama, Vandy and Mississippi State.
  • Recruiting guru Otis Kirk leaves, according to message board post by site publisher Trey Biddy:
  • “The past few months Otis and I have talked a little back and forth about an insurance issue. Without going into too much detail, I couldn’t provide something he could not do without. At the same time it wouldn’t be right for me to hold him hostage to the remaining three years on his contract. That would’ve put him in an impossible situation. The right thing for me to do was to release him from the contract so he can work elsewhere, which I told him I would do a month ago. I assure you it was not something he wanted to do and was very difficult for him.”
  • Former Hog QB Matt Jones busts out shades and a fly hat to shade himself from Razorbacks’ extremely bright future.


Maurice Robinson and Lazerick Griffin

In 1992, one of the strongest classes of basketball players in state history graduated. Here’s a look at what happened to some of the top players from that class.

Maurice Robinson: The summer before his senior year, Robinson burst into national prominence by starring at the NIKE/ABCD camp. According to the Democrat-Gazette, the 6-7, 238-pound lived up to the billing as a senior, averaging 14.7 points, eight rebounds and shooting 69% on field goals (a drop from his junior year).

He then turned his might toward Florida State, where he played two seasons. It’s interesting to note the differences between the Dem-Gaz and the 1992-93 Seminole press guide when it comes to Robinson’s stats:

Maurice Robinson, 6-6, 235, F, Little Rock, AR (Parkview) – Extremely strong inside player who can muscle in the paint with the big boys…aggressive with the ball on the baseline…uses strength to get shot off against taller defenders…coaches would like to see him develop his 10-12 foot jumper…excellent rebounder with ability to get the outlet pass to a guard quickly…style of play reminds many of Southern Mississippi’s Clarence Weatherspoon…comfortable in either a fast break or half-court offense…disciplined player who should adjust quickly to Florida State’s system…good defender who can move people around in the lane…powerful move to the bucket…averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last year at Park View Magnet High in Little Rock…earned first team All-Arkansas honors after shooting 69 percent from the floor as a senior…also earned Little Rock All-City honors…Parkview High saw all five starters sign basketball scholarships to Division 1 schools: Dion Cross (Stanford), Kenneth Taylor (Murray State), Jamal Lindsey (Samford) and Derek Fisher (Samford)…Gibbon’s All-Star Sports ranked Robinson as the 33rd best high school recruit and reported that the signing of five players from one school was unprecedented for a non-boarding school…according to school officials, Robinson is the most heavily recruited basketball player in the history of Parkview…as a junior, Robinson connected on a school record 71 percent of his field goals…born November 25, 1973 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas…father (Maurice) played football at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff…roommate is Derrick Carroll.

Robinson started his career quickly, playing starter’s minutes, but by the end of the ACC season was only getting spare minutes. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Oklahoma State. In 1995-96, he averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a game for Eddie Sutton’s team. And that spectacular touch from on field goals? Still there, to the tune of 58%.

Robinson next surfaces on my googledar as part of a London-based traveling team, helping sharpen the 2000-01 Razorbacks. His London Leopards weren’t too shabby either; they beat Virginia and Bucknell that preseason.

In June, 2004, he was in Little Rock trying out for the Arkansas Rimrockers, an American Basketball Association expansion franchise.

Lazerick Griffin: The hub around which Eudora’s spectacular 1991-92 season rotated, the 6-5, 205-pound forward averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Class AA state champion Badgers. The south Arkansas school suffered only one in-state loss – to Parkview in the Overall final (yes, different class champions played each other back then – a blessedly just way of sorting out who’s really top dog).

Griffin started the next season for the defending Sun Belt champs Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. He averaged 5.8 points.

Ol Grif’s online paper trail gets increasingly spotty from here. It appears he might have
transferred to Indiana State, where he played 31 minutes against Creighton in 1996.

Nowadays? Based on the high school photo I’ve seen of Big Grif, and the fact this Facebook profile for Lazerick Griffin has friended Eudora the town, there’s a fairly strong chance he’s calling Dallas home.

In two decades since teaming with Corliss and D-Fish, Marcus Brown has become King of European ball

I recently wrote articles for Sync magazine and about Marcus Brown, the West Memphis native who tore up scenes in Arkansas, Kentucky and nearly every European nation worth its salt when it comes to basketball quality.

Here are some choice excerpts from Sync:

How dominant has Brown been in the numerous nations he’s called home since 1998?

Picture Dolph Lundgren’s teched-out uberkiller character from Universal Soldier. Knock that gun out of his supernaturally strong hand, and insert a basketball complemented by an insanely accurate 10- to 15-foot jump shot. Now watch as he marches through France, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Israel and Lithuania, leaving a wake of destruction that includes at least eight MVP awards and 20 championships. Oh, and this Arkie happens to also be the Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer.

On the way Corliss, Marcus et al used to pack ’em:

Williamson, along with stars like Parkview’s Maurice Robinson (a Florida State signee) and Dion Cross (Stanford), drew 5,889 people to the state’s high school all-star game at the University of Central Arkansas’ Farris Center. That more than doubled the 2,231 high attendance mark for UCA men’s basketball last season, Williamson’s first as head coach.

Razorback connection:

By the end of the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Brown’s senior year, he was averaging 20.5 points, eight rebounds and four steals, and being recruited by Murray State, Ball State, Alabama-Birmingham and Jackson State. In the end, Murray State signed both Brown and Parkview guard Kenneth Taylor. Its coach, Scott Edgar, had been a Razorback assistant and Memphis area recruiter.

Arkansas didn’t recruit Brown as a basketball player (only as a high jumper), but he’s still part of Razorback history. As a sophomore, he played in Bud Walton Arena’s first regular season game.

Like fellow c/o ’92ers Corliss and D-Fish, Marcus Brown did get some burn in the League, though he wouldn’t be as successful there:

Even in his mid-30s, Brown was still killing folks while playing for Zalgiris. Check out the crafty runners and precision shooting he unleashes in the footage below.

Watch out, Mid South. Such skills could very well one day apotheosize Brown, already considered the “King of Europe,” into “Immortal Emperor of West Memphis Adult League Rec Basketball.”

From France to Russia, Napolean and Marcus Brown both did damage

Yes, Arkansas’ Ballers of ’92 appear to have done quite well in college and beyond. Most know how D-Fish, Corliss and Marcus ended up, but what about the other guys?
In the next few days, I’ll be posting about what to two of them.

Archie Goodwin extras: On Jarnell Stokes, Calipari’s Dominican adventures

Clearing out the notebook from recent interviews with Arkansas’ most recruited athlete and found these tidbits:

1) Goodwin and Jarnell Stokes (Memphis) are ranked in the Top 20 of most c/o 2012 prep basketball players rankings. Both are recruited by numerous elite programs, included Arkansas and Memphis. Stokes recently insinuated those schools are front runners for him. Razorback and Tiger fans alike salivate at the prospect of seeing this guard and forward teaming up next season for their team.

At the time of the most recent Sync interview, Goodwin didn’t consider himself a close friend of Stokes, but kept up with him: “He follows me on Twitter and I follow him on Twitter. We might say what’s up or whatever on Twitter. We just haven’t engaged conversations.”

Goodwin also gave a scouting report on the 6-8, 250-pound Stokes, compared by many to Corliss Williamson: “He’s a very athletic, strong post man. I haven’t seen him do any really good post moves but he has a nice touch on his jumper and he can body you in the post and use his long athleticism and strength to get a lot of rebounds.”

That much was evident at July’s EYBL Peach Jam, in which both players starred. Here’s fivestarbasketball’s recap:

Stokes carried YOMCA to the Peach Jam finals as an individual leader in points at 14.6 per game, rebounds (9 rpg) and assists (3.6 apg).

Goodwin led the entire tournament with 20.4 points per game, including dropping 30 in an upset win over Team Takeover. The Sylvan Hills (AR) swingman led an undermanned team to a Peach Jam birth and two tough wins at the tournament. Goodwin silenced the doubters who said he wouldn’t be back from injury in time by putting on an absolute show at the Peach Jam.

2) John Calipari will soon coach the Dominican national team, which this September will be vying for its first Olympic berth at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Brazil. Calipari will spend about six weeks training Dominican players and coaches in Lexington. He follows in the footsteps of other American coaches like Nolan Richardson, who coached Mexico, and Del Harris, who coached China.

Goodwin respects Calipari’s unconventional decision to coach another nation’s team: “I think it shows he wants to explore different things. This is probably something he’s not done yet and wants to do. He’s willing to take chances and see how it goes and hopefully if works out the best for him. I follow the FIBA Americas, but the only time I watch it is when America plays.”

Jake Bequette discusses Oden’s dismissal, Willy Robinson’s agility, the Ohio State loss

Below is the Sync magazine feature article I wrote on Jake Bequette this week.

If he weren’t so savagely fast, slow and steady would describe Razorback Jake Bequette almost to a tee.

It’s been that way from the beginning for the meticulous All-SEC defensive end. Since before the beginning, really.

By now, your average Arkansas football fan can just as readily spout the Bequette lineage as most any bloodline lifted from the book of Genesis.

Read the rest here

It appears that Bequette is clearly the best football player Catholic has produced in decades. But he also grew up in the Heights, right outside Cammack Village, like me. I’m guessing he’s probably the best athlete the Heights neighborhood has ever produced.
I’m interested to hear what Little Rock people have to say about this..

Also, some bonus material. Bequette is glad the Razorbacks played the entire Ohio State squad in the 2011 Sugar Bowl, despite Tatoogate.

We wanted to play their best players, and we’re glad they did. Whatever exception was made, I’m glad it was made because we wanted to play their best.

In the ensuing months, Ohio State’s head coach has been fired and their wins from last season wiped off the record books. While the Buckeyes lost their Sugar Bowl “W”, the Hogs must keep their “L.”

Honestly, I don’t think it mattered. People can write what they want in the record
books. I’m always going to remember that game for what it was. It was a great game
against their best players. we came up short, unfortunately. But it was a great experience
for our team.

Jake Bequette, Peyton Hillis and the notion of the new white pioneer

Last season, Cleveland Brown back Peyton Hillis emerged as a national star by bulldozing his way through legions of NFL defenders. Along the way, he also smashed racial typecasts. For decades, the best NFL running backs have been black. Not that it mattered to the former Razorback:

“I don’t put race into the equation,” Hillis told ESPN in October. “I’m a human being just like everybody else.”

This season, Razorback defensive lineman Jake Bequette, like Hillis, enters his senior season as one of the premier players in the SEC. He credits Hillis, along with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, with inspiring him as a redshirt freshman:

“Those guys were great teammates and great role models. Every one of them were supremely talented, but they worked their butts off and they showed me as a young freshman what it takes to get to that point.”

But Bequette shares more with Hillis than a strong work ethic. He is a rarity in his own right, an All-SEC  white defensive end who attended private school in central Arkansas. He is the only white defensive line starter in the SEC West division, taking into account projected starters listed in the 2011 Hooten’s Arkansas Football issue. The SEC East is a different story. Tennessee and Kentucky each have starting white defensive tackles, while all four of Vandy’s d-linemen are white.

Like Hillis, Bequette says race within the framework of the team doesn’t matter to him:

“I’m one of the only white guys on the defensive line, but I don’t look at it like that. We’re always just competing to see who’s the best regardless of race, gender, whatever.”

I asked him whether, in the larger picture, his race could matter. For instance,  it could inspire central Arkansas private school kids (most of whom are white) to believe they can star as defensive ends in SEC football. Bequette replied:

“Yeah, hopefully I have that effect. I’d say that’s kind of a factor in why I like Jared Allen so much. He’s one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL and happens to be a white guy. And, hey, I’m white. I hope that’s not the only reason why I’m inspiring kids, but if I am, then that’s a good thing.”

Race is a potentially dicey issue, but should be discussed in an open-minded way. Sure, most race discussions should have a much more serious objective than worrying about the prevalence of a certain skin color at various sports positions. Nobody, after all, is suffering an immediate injustice  if almost all NFL running backs and defensive ends are black. The presumption is those jobs were earned on merit, which is how just societies operate. (although some argue  socioeconomic conditions dictate why most applicants for those jobs are black to begin with)

As a journalist, I am drawn to exceptions, not the norm. Bequette’s ability already qualifies him as a rare player; his race, only more so.