FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — I know the last eight days — since Arkansas’ 56-3 loss at Auburn — have been pretty depressing for Razorback fans.
And although I’m certain you’ve appreciated and enjoyed our bye week coverage here at SEC Country, I would imagine you’re ready for some positivity.
With that in mind, I decided to compile a list of links that should make you feel better — or at least temporarily put your mind in a happy place with regard to your beloved Hogs.
These are my favorite human-interest stories we’ve published at SEC Country since mid-July, when the season unofficially kicked off in Hoover, Ala., at SEC Media Days.
Hopefully reading through these stories — some of which might not be new for you — can brighten your Sunday and give you a positive boost heading into Florida week and the final stretch of the 2016 regular season.
Bielema stars at Media Days
- Jen Bielema embraces her husband’s jovial, off-the-cuff style — even if it’s sometimes embarrassing, by Jason Kersey (July 13)
- The story behind the story: Bret Bielema shot some life into an otherwise dull SEC Media Days, so I decided to write about it with some input from his wife.
The story of one Arkansas commit and his famous father
- How Koilan Jackson’s father Keith helped guide him through the recruiting process, by Trent Shadid (July 26)
- The story behind the story: A pipeline is developing between Little Rock’s Joe T. Robinson High School and Arkansas. In this case, a familiar name decided to become a Razorback.
Hatcher’s determination to go out strong
- After setbacks, Arkansas senior receiver Keon Hatcher has big plans for 2016, by Jason Kersey (Aug. 1)
- The story behind the story: I covered Keon when he was a senior at Owasso (Okla.) High School and remembered his recruitment. And considering his season-ending injury last year, I figured this was a good time to take a look back at all he’s been through since choosing to be a Hog instead of staying in-state.
Skipper’s side job
- Arkansas’ Dan Skipper a master protector on and off the field, by Trent Shadid (Aug. 11)
- The story behind the story: Trent was walking around on Dickson Street one early August night and noticed a familiar face checking IDs at the door of one establishment.
The story behind ‘Greater’
- Introducing Brian Reindl, the ‘walk-on filmmaker’ bringing Arkansas legend Brandon Burlsworth to the silver screen, by Jason Kersey (Aug. 19)
- The story behind the story: I received an email from a PR firm pitching me this story because “Greater” was about to premiere. Generally speaking, I knew Brandon Burlsworth’s story, but through writing about the guy who made this movie possible, I learned a lot more about Burlsworth and what he means to Razorback Nation.
A Holtz returns home
- Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz has fond memories of his time in Arkansas, by Trent Shadid (Sept. 2)
- The story behind the story: Trent got an exclusive telephone interview with Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz a few days before the season opener, and got Skip to reflect on his time as a Fayetteville High quarterback when his dad was the Razorbacks coach.
Ramsey’s comeback story
- Randy Ramsey’s season of exile — and the force that helped him fight his way back to Arkansas, by Jason Kersey (Sept. 2)
- The story behind the story: I love comeback stories, and Ramsey’s is a great one. Shortly after the news that he’d earned his scholarship back, I called his mom to find out about his year in exile.
A punter getting some pub
- How former walk-on punter Toby Baker became an invaluable Razorback, by Jason Kersey (Sept. 16)
- The story behind the story: Baker was just coming off a fantastic performance at TCU when I decided to write about him. Punters don’t always get love when they deserve it, so I enjoyed this opportunity to shine some light on his terrific story. He’s become arguably the best player on the team for what he does.
A look back four decades at a seismic victory
- Revisiting 1975, when Arkansas emphatically ended Texas A&M’s national title hopes, by Trent Shadid (Sept. 23)
- The story behind the story: During most game weeks, we write an “I Remember” story about a past game between the Razorbacks and that week’s opponent. For Texas A&M week, Trent got in touch with former Razorback and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Greg Koch, who now hosts a radio show in Houston and told some terrific stories.
Parents praise Bielema
- In their own words: Arkansas player parents on Bret Bielema flying home with Frank Ragnow, by Jason Kersey (Oct. 6)
- The story behind the story: Like many around the country, I was moved by Bret Bielema’s decision to fly back home with Frank Ragnow after the tragic, untimely death of his father. I asked Bielema at his Monday news conference why it was important for him to do that, and while he was answering, it occurred to me that it must feel really, really good in this moment to be an Arkansas player’s parent and know what kind of man your kid is playing for. So I decided to reach out to as many Razorback parents as I could and get their reaction to Bielema’s gesture. Their words were so impactful that I chose to transcribe them rather than write a narrative story.
Remembering the last ‘Bama win
- Mustain to Cleveland: Revisiting the play that gave Arkansas its last win over Alabama in 2006, by Trent Shadid (Oct. 7)
- The story behind the story: For another “I Remember” piece, Trent reached out to Ben Cleveland, who caught the winning touchdown the last time Arkansas beat Alabama 10 years ago.
The Hunter Heave
- Remembering the ‘Hunter Heave’ in Arkansas’ win over Ole Miss one year later, by Trent Shadid (Oct. 14)
- The story behind the story: For Ole Miss week, it seemed obvious that the “I Remember” piece should focus on considering the incredible game — and unforgettable heave — that took place last season between the Hogs and Rebels.
Wise family values
- How Arkansas star Deatrich Wise Jr. learned the value of community service, by Jason Kersey (Oct. 14)
- The story behind the story: I love to write human-interest feature stories about these players’ lives and experiences off the field. It’s probably my favorite thing about this career I’ve chosen. So when I called Deatrich Wise Sr. to talk about his son, I didn’t have a specific story in mind. I just wanted to learn more about the Hogs star defensive end. What I found out during my long interview with Wise Sr. — and a follow-up interview with him and Deatrich’s mother — is that serving your community is a big deal in that family.
The unknown hero of RWIII’s recovery
- Introducing the surgeon whose quick thinking saved Rawleigh Williams III’s playing career, by Jason Kersey (Oct. 21)
- The story behind the story: During a conversation with Rawleigh Williams Jr., he mentioned that they were fortunate that the doctor who operated on his son the night of his terrifying neck injury was a guy who happened to be in the stadium, watching the game as a fan. I found that absolutely fascinating and set out to write about that surgeon, Dr. James Blankenship. I contacted Dr. Blankenship to request an interview, but because of privacy laws regarding medical records under HIPAA, he needed Rawleigh Williams III to sign off on it. Rawleigh was happy to do so — he wanted the world to know about Blankenship’s role in his recovery — and I met with Blankenship. The result is one of my favorite stories I’ve written during my career.