LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It all began with T.J. Hammonds.
“He started a new trend,” said David Porter, someone following in Hammonds’ footsteps.
Those footsteps lead from Little Rock’s Joe T. Robinson High School to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Arkansas signed 3 former Robinson High players in the past two recruiting classes and all indications are that the new pipeline could continue.
Hammonds was a 4-star prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, accord to 247Sports’ composite rankings. A versatile running back, Hammonds rushed for 1,375 yards and 22 touchdowns — and added 661 receiving yards and 6 scores — during his senior season and signed with the Razorbacks.
For 2018, wide receiver Nathan Page is 247Sports’ No. 2 recruit in the state of Arkansas, and tight end/linebacker Hunter Swoboda is also turning heads. Neither has an Arkansas scholarship offer yet; both could soon.
Then in the 2019 recruiting class, there is promising defensive line prospect Elliott Harris.
“It started with T.J.,” Jackson said. “Our coaches got comfortable with the (Arkansas) staff already up there and then they got comfortable with our players.
“They know that when our coaches tell them that a player is good and can play, they aren’t pitching a lie.”
Robinson assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Maupin is himself a former Senators football player.
“Coach Maupin told us awhile ago that back when he was in high school, the goal was to end up signing with Arkansas,” Porter said. “That’s just how it was back then. Now, starting with T.J., he started a new trend.
“It just shows that no matter where you come from, the SEC is a place you can be. I think a lot of people coming up behind us will want to achieve that too.”
Maupin said Hammonds transformed during his high school career through work ethic that rubbed off on younger teammates.
Hammonds is entering his sophomore season with the Razorbacks. Although he didn’t contribute a ton as a freshman in 2016, big things are expected. Hammonds could play running back or even move into the slot for the Hogs.
“The biggest difference is the kids’ ability to buy in and to have the personal accountability to become great,” Maupin said. “Robinson has always been famous for having good athletes, but when you mix good athletes with direction and purpose and you have some who buy in, the sky’s the limit.
“God has truly blessed the kids around here with a lot of natural ability.”