Nomadic tight end settles at Arkansas
The 14th in a series profiling newcomers to the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
FAYETTEVILLE — Jeremy Patton calls himself blessed to be an Arkansas Razorback.
He’s been through a lot to get here.
Patton, a 6-5, 250-pound tight end, bounced between Indianapolis, his hometown, and two central Florida cities — Kissimmee and Apopka — as he was growing up, and things weren’t always smooth.
“I come from a place where I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on,” Patton said, referring to Indianapolis. “Yeah, I come from a troubled family.
“Now, to be here with all of this, it’s just an extra blessing. It’s great. It’s everything it was supposed to be.”
Patton, through it all, ended up Arizona Western College, where he developed into the nation’s top junior college tight end prospect.
Patton didn’t put up big numbers last season, partly because the Matadors ran a prostyle offense similar to that of Arkansas, and tight ends were often employed as blockers.
He had 18 catches for 242 yards and 6 touchdowns after 17 catches for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns during his freshman season.
Patton said he has enjoyed what has been a mild Fayetteville summer after the blast furnace that was Yuma, Ariz., home of Arizona Western.
“My first day flying into Yuma, I left on a July day and it was 84 degrees in Indianapolis,” he said. “I remember specifically. I got to Yuma and it was 121 with 30 mph winds. It felt like I was in a microwave outside. That was
surreal, so far away from home. Man, that was tough.”
Patton said his recruitment by Barry Lunney Jr., his position coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and the offensive scheme promoted by Coach Bret Bielema and coordinator Dan Enos factored into him picking the Razorbacks over offers from many schools, including Alabama, Auburn, Arizona, Arizona State, Southern Cal and others.
“That’s half the reason I’m here right now,” Patton said, when addressing Arkansas-based media on Wednesday. “Coach Lunney is the reason why I’m here, I would say, right now.
“And the scheme of the offense that Coach B runs. Coach Lunney, he genuinely cares, and that’s something I take to heart.”
Bielema heaped high praise on Patton during a talk to fans the day after national signing day.
“We’ve had a number of tight ends get drafted,” Bielema said. “This one might be the best. Very talented player. Very serious demeanor.”
Lunney, who saw Patton
play twice at Arizona Western, made reference to a classic Western movie regarding his trips to the remote campus.
“I got to know Yuma, Ariz., pretty well,” Lunney said. “It’s 3:10 to Yuma from Phoenix on a puddle jumper. And then it seems like it’s about 8 hours of a drive back from Yuma to Phoenix. So you want to get to know a guy, and we got a chance to really get to know him and who we were getting.”
Patton was originally scheduled to enroll at Arkansas in January, but he changed majors and was surprised to find he needed
to take one more course, speech communication, to graduate. He then came to Fayetteville in June.
“I got all my work done and got out of there early,” Patton said.
Patton plays a position that is highly valued, at Arkansas, but one that has plenty of competition with Austin Cantrell, Cheyenne O’Grady, Jack Kraus, Will Gragg and Grayson Gunter.
“We’ve got a good rotation going now at practice,” Patton said. “Nothing’s really set yet. We’ve got a lot of talent in that group. It’s going to be up to the top four or five guys to fight and compete and earn those two spots.”
Arkansas employs its tight ends in a variety of ways: attached to the line, split out, and as a motion player who can wind up as a fullback, edge blocker or a route runner. Patton said he’s learning only one of the spots but has designs on expanding to the full gamut.
Lunney said the coaches are adding more and more to Patton’s plate each day.
“Certainly he’s got a lot of things to improve on,” Lunney said. … “But he’s hungry. He’s more than capable physically. He’s more
than capable mentally, so we’re excited where he’s going. He’s making the group better.”
Lunney compared Patton’s late arrival this summer to a race car that’s a lap down.
“He’s behind, but I will say this: He’s got his foot on the gas pedal … and he’s doing his best to try to catch up.”
Enos said he likes Patton’s skill set.
“He’s behind a little bit from a conditioning standpoint because he hasn’t been here long, but you’ve seen mental toughness from him because he’s fought through each practice and finished it,” Enos said. “He’s flashed with his ball skills and his toughness and his ability to strain already.”
Patton suffered what he described as a hip flexor during developmental practice on Wednesday, but said he’d take treatment and be back at it Thursday, because he’s a man with a plan.
“I’m an urgent guy,” Patton said. “I’m not going to sit around and not do anything to get better. You know I was in here early on days learning with Coach Lunney and trying to get everything together.”
Arkansas junior tight end Jeremy Patton was rated the nation’s No. 1 junior college tight end by ESPN, Scout and 247Sports after playing last season at Arizona Western College.