UA media day back and forth like pingpong
It is usually the same during the time leading up to Arkansas football media day.
While the players are downstairs in the locker room, the media mills around and visits, but they all know in just minutes they will be rivals, racing around the huge area trying to get an interview with this guy or that one.
Guys such as Austin Allen and Frank Ragnow are in demand. They are this season’s headliners.
Others, of course, are interviewed.
When Bret Bielema, head football coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, finishes his 30-minute debriefing, media members can take the stairs (most do) or the elevator.
To get to the locker room, you pass through the recreation area that has oversized leather sofas and chairs, some video games, a couple of older game machines, a film room, computers and more.
A game of pingpong is going on, which seems to be a popular thing because several of the players are surrounding the second pingpong game — it is in the locker room — where a very lively and highly contested game of doubles is being played. It may be a game, but both sides are playing to win.
This was how Drew Morgan first drew attention. It wasn’t his turn, but he was trying to talk a teammate into letting him go ahead and take on someone who was undefeated. It was about competition, and Morgan believed with all his heart he was supposed to always win.
Morgan went undrafted in April but signed with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent. Earlier this week — just hours after bringing the house down by singing “Lean On Me,” in which most of his Dolphins teammates joined in — Morgan moved up the depth chart to No. 2 slotback behind Jarvis Landry.
Saturday’s pingpong game in the Fred W. Smith football facility quickly was over as the players were told to report to their lockers.
Most were not going to be interviewed, and they knew that, but it was required and they did so without grumbling.
Patrick Pierson, the head sports information director, and his staff handed out sheets with locker assignments and were readily available to help. Most of the media, armed with assignments, took off in a controlled frenzy.
Saturday was the only time some of the players will be available until perhaps the bowl season, and this time of year the Razorbacks Nation wants information. Every newspaper, radio station, TV station and website was vying to get the most information.
The seniors’ lockers are separate and easy to find, and that’s where most of the media went first. This twohour window seemed to close sooner than later.
When yours truly was finished with interviews, the last thing to do was to find and speak to freshmen Hayden Henry and Koilan Jackson. Their dads are longtime friends.
Hayden’s dad, Mark, was an All-Southwest Conference offensive lineman for the Razorbacks and is pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock. His older brother, Hunter, was an All-American tight end for the Hogs and now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Hayden was assigned Hunter’s old locker. He was easy to find.
Koilan’s dad, Keith, was a two-time All-American tight end at Oklahoma, played nine years in the NFL and is the founder of Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids ministry in Little Rock.
Both were receiving some media attention, and they handled it like veterans. Both were old-fashioned polite.
When it was time to leave, a few players were back on the pingpong tables, going at it again.