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Arkansas QB Austin Allen was named on Monday to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's best player.

Fatherhood has made Bret Bielema gentler already

Eric Bolin

With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points! There is no place like it on the web.

The old phrase goes that once you become a father, you become kinder, gentler. Perhaps that’s what was going on Monday at SEC Media Days with Bret Bielema.

The Arkansas coach followed commissioner Greg Sankey to kick off the event, officially signaling the “all clear” for us to prepare for the college football season. But if you were expecting some usual Bielema firepower or attitude, you may have been mistaken.

“That was before I had a child,” Bielema said at one point when a reporter asked him a question regarding one his previous comical quotations.

Of course, a Monday in mid-July isn’t likely to see Bielema with the same demeanor as he will carry come early September. More than, probably, being a new father, Bielema’s manner is more reflective of a coach knowing what’s at stake.

Bielema isn’t on the hot seat. Nor should he be. Another 7-5 season with collapses at the end might put him there come this time next year, though. A sub-.500 season (which is certainly possible) might, too. The flip side is a 7-5 season with wins over, say, LSU and Auburn or the like, would likely be enough.

It’s all up in the air. Bielema knows it and he showed it Monday.

Time to focus on football and focus on family.

The best moment of the day was Austin Allen’s

The best part of Media Days was when SEC Network’s Peter Burns asked Austin Allen what kind of advice he had for Bielema in fatherhood.

arkansas football-belk bowl-austin allen
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen: not a father, not offering any advice. (Jason Kersey/SEC Country)

Allen’s eyes grew wide. He gave a big ol’ grin, had his cheeks get a little flushed and said “I don’t have any advice. You’d have to ask my parents.”

I legitimately laughed out loud. Burns and Allen both looked at someone behind the camera. Seemed like Burns immediately knew it was a silly question and Allen was looking for someone to confirm if Burns was serious.

Confirmed: Austin Allen has no children.

More importantly …

Allen has been recognized as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks.

Don’t have to convince me of that, of course. I’ve called him the best quarterback in the SEC for months now in Breakfast. Good to see it official, though.

Allen was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award on Monday. The award is a bit like an alternative Heisman Trophy. Less cachet, but just as significant as it’s given to the player deemed the nation’s best player.

Arkansas’ quarterback might not be that. Yet, if you’re the best player at a position in the best conference in the country, who knows. Allen could be that after all.

Why I love Bret Bielema

We’ve been over this before: I am a Bret Bielema fan. I like the guy as a coach. I like the guy as a man. What I know of him, which isn’t much. We’ve had only a few personal interactions.

He’s a bit cocky. I (am) like that. He’s a bit mouthy. I (am) like that. He loves his “kids”/players. I (am) like that. But one particular thing he said Monday struck a major chord with me.

“We have changed the way kids play football,” he said.

Courtesy of concussionfoundation.org

What he’s referring to is the safety of the game. As in, it isn’t safe right now. It is, however, safer than it was. The sport is violent and very few people seem interested in doing anything about brain injury epidemic. Bielema is.

The cynic might think it’s a cover. Remember the whole thing about how Bielema prefers a slower-paced game because it fits his teams’ styles more? That deal that came up a couple years ago? Yeah, it lingers still. But it’s mostly faded. Bielema’s team are not exactly crazy-fast or anything, but they’re not plodders. Accordingly, his previous words about a commitment to making the game safer still ring true, not fraudulent.

Football is a contact sport and will always be a contact sport. It doesn’t, however, have to be as vicious as it is. And thank heavens Bielema is helping change that.

Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.