Each weekday throughout the fall 2015 semester, Randy Ramsey spent hours in a classroom, intensely poring over his University of Arkansas coursework.
Ramsey desperately wanted to rejoin the Razorback football team after academic issues had cost him his scholarship and roster spot months earlier. So there he sat — more than 1,300 miles from Fayetteville — working through online classes under the direct supervision of an especially demanding teacher who wouldn’t let him fail.
Those months spent in his mother’s computer classes at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were humbling, to be sure, but without them, Ramsey might not be back at Arkansas, back on the football team and back on scholarship today.
Ramsey, a 6-foot-4, 228-pound sophomore, is expected to be part of the Razorbacks’ defensive line rotation when Arkansas opens the 2016 season Saturday at home against Louisiana Tech.
In a telephone interview this week with SEC Country, Enewetok Ramsey — who has taught information technology at Dillard High for 28 years — expressed her overwhelming pride in how far Randy has progressed academically in the last 12 months.
“My job as a mother and my job as an educator is to encourage kids, and push them to their potential,” she said. “It was motivation for the students, and especially the athletes, to see Randy’s determination.
“They could see that even when you fail, if you still believe in yourself, you can do all things.”
‘Somewhere, we lost a line of communication’
As a true freshman at Arkansas in 2014, Randy Ramsey appeared in seven games with one start.
His mother traveled to five games that year, but also — knowing Randy’s homebody nature — called at least once a week to check on him. Based on those conversations, she had no reason to believe anything was wrong.
That’s why it came as a complete shock to her when, months later, Randy called home to deliver the news that because of his grades, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had dismissed him from the team.
“Somewhere, we lost a line of communication,” said Enewetok Ramsey.
Randy hit rock bottom after he arrived back home in Fort Lauderdale. He spent many nights in his bedroom thinking football might not be for him, and took three months off from any kind of working out.
After deciding he still wanted to play football, Randy spent three days at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College but called home and told his mom that he didn’t like it there.
“Son, I’m going to support whatever you want to do,” she told him. “But you’re not just gonna come home, sit around and do nothing.”
‘I wasn’t gonna leave him at home’
From there, the mother and son agreed on their unusual, fall 2015 arrangement. Randy would go with his mom to work every day and sit in her classroom, completing his online coursework.
“I wasn’t gonna leave him at home, because young people get into things when you leave them at the house,” she said with a laugh. “They suck up the air conditioning. Eat up all the groceries.
“I’m kinda old school. If you’re not going to work, then you need to be going to school. He had to come along with me.”
During his first fall without football since he was 4, Randy buckled down, swallowed his pride and made his grades. Then he called Bielema and asked if he could come back, even as a walk-on.
Bielema agreed to it and allowed his exiled player to return without a scholarship. Even though it created a tremendous financial burden, Enewetok Ramsey was convinced her son wouldn’t blow his second chance.
“I told him we’d do whatever we needed to do to pay for that semester,” she said.
‘He actually smiled’
Arkansas coach Vernon Hargreaves admits he was dubious when Randy Ramsey arrived back on campus in January.
But one thing immediately stood out when coach and player reunited.
“He actually smiled a little bit,” Hargreaves said. “That was different.”
Hargreaves remained a tad skeptical, though, even when the athletic department’s academic advisers sung Ramsey’s praises.
“I was like, ‘Ah, I gotta see this,’” Hargreaves recalled.
But Ramsey proved himself with good grades during the spring and summer, then one day early last month, during a team meeting, Bielema announced that the prodigal defender was being re-awarded his scholarship.
Ramsey made a position change from linebacker to defensive end during the summer and should factor into the rotation, even though the defensive line is one of Arkansas’ deepest, most experienced position groups.
But regardless of how much he plays this season, Ramsey is grateful for his second chance.
For her part, Enewetok Ramsey has been reminded throughout this process of the reasons she and her son fell in love with Bielema and his program to begin with.
When Randy was being recruited, he took an official visit to Arkansas in January of his senior year — just a couple of weeks before National Signing Day.
He committed to the Hogs while he and his mom were in Fayetteville, but the following Monday morning, while Enewetok was sitting in her classroom, Bielema walked through the door.
“He wanted to make sure that he was definitely committed to come to the University of Arkansas,” she recalled.
“I said, ‘You had to have been on a red-eye. You almost beat us home!’”
Little did anyone know at the time that the very same classroom would be the setting for an extremely rare college football comeback story. Being dismissed from a program and then allowed back is largely unheard of at this level.
“Coach B recruited me because I was an uncommon guy,” Randy said. “He likes to use that word a lot.
“It was inside of me. I just had to prove to him that I could be that guy that he recruited.”