Hornet Hogs living their dreams
FAYETTEVILLE - Bryant High School alums Brenden Young and Cameron Vail appreciated the football that Ouachita Baptist offered.
But each dreamed lifelong playing for the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
So three years apart, even with an OBU scholarship at hand, both defensive backs walked on to the University of Arkansas.
Young played a full 2015 season as a OBU freshman. He recorded nine tackles in 11 games with an interception and quarterback hurry. Then he transferred to the UA and became football eligible in 2017 for former Coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks.
In five games on 2017 special teams, Young logged three tackles.
The Chad Morris regime assumed command in 2018. Young played three games on special teams with two tackles. He closed the 2019 spring drills at secondteam free safety behind Joe Foucha and competes for time this August preseason.
Vail graduated Bryant High in 2018 with an offer from the Air Force Academy and a commitment to OBU before realizing he just couldn’t forsake his dreams.
He walked on redshirting on the Razorbacks scout team last fall, broke his foot last February and practices now without benefit of spring ball.
Each likely would have played considerably at OBU. Neither expresses regret.
“I wanted to play against the best competition,” Young said. “I had always watched the Razorbacks growing up and I just wanted a more competitive nature. It was more competitive here. Once I saw there was a way, I hit it full speed.”
“I was committed to Ouachita Baptist,” Vail said. “And then I decided, ‘You know, it was always my dream to play football for my dream team that I’ve always grown up watching,” So I decided to come here and play.”
The Air Force call came out of the wild blue yonder.
“I never really thought about the military,” Vail said. “I respect the people that do it. There just haven’t been a whole lot of military people in my family. So
it wasn’t something I had really thought about. I was really considering going, but the distance to Colorado (the Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs). I’ve always been like a homebody not really wanting to go that far away. And it’s a big commitment going into the military after. So I decided to come here.”
Young still exhilarates recounting playing his first Razorbacks game.
“It’s definitely been a thrill!” Young said. “My first game was New
Mexico State, two years ago … prior to that game I hadn’t been on a game field for a year and a half. So that was exciting.”
Vail he relishes even redshirting on the scout team.
“It was good,” Vail said. “Getting bigger in the weight room and running scout team during practice. Then in February I broke my foot and had surgery. So I’m just now getting back into shape. I didn’t get any reps in the spring, but I can’t worry about that. I just have to keep working hard and not worry about things I can’t control.”
Like Young, Vail sees special teams as his opportunity. “I just have to put it (worthy special teams practices) on film to get that opportunity,” Vail said. “My foot’s feeling good. I’m starting to get as healthy as I’ve been in awhile.”
Vail only had last fall’s redshirt year but it was under head coach Morris, defensive coordinator John Chavis and defensive backfield coaches Ron Cooper and Mark Smith.
Young had to start all over in 2018 with Bielema and his defensive staff
“I just took it as a clean slate and do the best of my abilities,” Young said. “You get what you give.”
Young professes seeing “a lot of difference in this year’s secondary and overall defense vs. last year.
“Last year we were still getting adapted to each other and the new scheme,” Young said. “I feel like the defense is a whole lot more comfortable with the scheme and comfortable with each other as far as knowing what the person beside him can and can’t do.”
And the secondary specifically?
“It’s stronger, faster and
more intelligent,” Young said. “With the strength and conditioning people we got a lot of bodies that are mature. Coach Cooper made the scheme a whole lot more second nature to us. I feel like there’s a lot less thinking out there and more reacting.”
Academically, both make their mark for the Razorbacks and themselves.
Young said he’s on track to graduate in May with a sports management degree.
Vail aspires doctoring his name.
“My major is kinesiology,” Vail said. “I want to go into pre-med.”
Former Hornet Cameron Vail, 1, makes a tackle while playing for Bryant. Vail is a walk-on for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
Former Hornet Brenden Young competes in a game while playing for Bryant. Young is a walk-on safety for the Hogs this season.