Born to play foot­ball

Fresh­man CB for Hogs was in­tro­duced to game while in the womb.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - WALLY HALL

Ap­plause and laugh­ter re­sounded Wed­nes­day morn­ing in the lobby of Sim­mons Bank.

A passer-by might have thought your friends at Sim­mons were giv­ing away in­ter­est-free loans in­stead of just low in­ter­est, but this was about some­thing they do in the com­mu­nity.

As the ma­jor spon­sor of the Lit­tle Rock Touch­down Club, Sim­mons makes sure David Bazzel doesn’t worry about lim­its when it comes to get­ting guest speak­ers for the weekly lun­cheon that has be­tween 200-500 peo­ple come to­gether to hear about Satur­day’s re­li­gion of foot­ball.

The LRTDC is a club open to ev­ery­one. The only re­quire­ment is you need to join.

The group of 15 speak­ers — the most of any touch­down

club in the coun­try — moves into No. 1 of all time be­fore Bret Bielema even begins to pre­pare his re­marks to kick off the club’s sea­son Aug. 21.

Bielema al­ways at­tracts a big crowd, and as the head coach at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville he should, but he may be chal­lenged this sea­son.

Af­ter Bielema is Steve “The Ol’ Ball Coach” Spurrier, who has al­most all the hard­ware that goes with suc­cess in foot­ball. He’s won a Heis­man Tro­phy, then be­came the only Heis­man win­ner to coach one. He coached a na­tional cham­pi­onship team at Florida, and he’s in the Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame as a player and coach. He also played in the NFL for 10 years.

Along the way, Spurrier gained the rep­u­ta­tion as own­ing a very sharp wit.

When he was at Florida, he said: “You can’t spell Cit­rus with­out U-T,” mean­ing Ten­nessee was go­ing to the Cit­rus Bowl and not win­ning the SEC East; Florida was.

When Pey­ton Manning an­nounced he was com­ing back for his se­nior sea­son with the Vols, Spurrier said, “I know why Pey­ton came back for his se­nior year: He wanted to be a three-time Cit­rus Bowl MVP.”

A week later comes “Iron” Mike Ditka, who owns three Su­per Bowl rings — one as a player, one as an as­sis­tant coach and one as a head coach. He’s in the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame. Ditka’s day is Tues­day, Sept. 5. All other club meet­ings are Mon­day.

Next up is Arkansas Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Jeff Long on Sept. 11. He’s fol­lowed by Tommy Tu­berville, a na­tive of Cam­den and Har­mony Grove (let those folks set­tle which is truly his home­town) who as the Auburn head coach beat the Crim­son Tide six con­sec­u­tive times, on Sept. 18. In 2004, he led the Tigers to a per­fect sea­son. Tu­berville is be­ing en­cour­aged by many to run for gov­er­nor of Alabama.

Some­how, some­way, Bazzel per­suaded Bielema’s for­mer boss and the cur­rent ath­letic di­rec­tor at Wis­con­sin, Barry Al­varez, to come to cen­tral Arkansas on Sept. 25.

Baz is still work­ing on the next date, Oct. 2, but he has Bar­rett Jones for Oct. 9. Jones played on three na­tional cham­pi­onship teams at Alabama. Just as im­pres­sively, he never made any­thing be­low an A as a stu­dent while earn­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get bet­ter, along comes for­mer Ok­la­homa head coach Bob Stoops on Oct. 16. Arkansas State Uni­ver­sity head Coach Blake An­der­son will make his fourth con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ance Oct. 23, and the South­west Con­fer­ence Hall of Fame in­duc­tion and lunch is set for Oct. 30.

Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Arkansas head Coach Steve Camp­bell kicks off Novem­ber. On Nov. 13, Steve Hatchell, CEO of the Na­tional Foot­ball Foun­da­tion, will present the James Street Award for Sports­man­ship. Dari Nowkhah of the SEC Net­work closes the reg­u­lar sea­son Nov. 20.

The Jan. 11 ban­quet fea­tures one of the all-time greats in Mar­cus Allen, but more on him later.

To join, go to LR Touch­down.com. The best bet is the Su­per Sports pack­age for $150, which in­cludes mem­ber­ship in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Col­lege Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

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