The 16th in a series profiling newcomers on the 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Santos Ramirez of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport thought he was all set to play football at LSU until the Tigers backed away from the offer he had been expecting and was prepared to accept.
Arkansas was happy to receive a national letter of intent from the 6-2, 195-pound cornerback who had gone to summer camp with the Razorbacks.
"I think Arkansas got a great steal, to be honest with you," said Evangel Coach Byron Dawson, the former LSU standout. "He's a rare combination of a guy that's strong with a long wingspan."
Ramirez said he hopes to show LSU what it missed out on.
"I want to show the whole country really what I'm about," said Ramirez, whose lead recruiter at Arkansas was Michael Smith. "I always wanted to play in the SEC. I just wanted to go to LSU because it's in Louisiana. It was my dream. But Arkansas fit everything that I was looking for: the social status, the academics. I feel like a family.
"I have a chance to play right away, and Arkansas fit all of that. I want to help them get back to how they used to be."
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, while discussing Ramirez's highlight tape on national signing day, said the Razorbacks are excited to land Ramirez.
"Very, very excited about Santos," Bielema said. "A very, very talented player that Michael did a great job on in Louisiana."
Ramirez made his name in recruiting circles with his performance at a camp in Baton Rouge.
"He went against 'Speedy' Noil and Malachi Dupre, some of the top skill guys in the country, and they couldn't get off the line with him," Dawson said. "He was just so physical. To me, that's what defines a shut-down corner."
Dawson said Evangel played Ramirez at safety unless it was intent on stifling a standout receiver by moving Ramirez on top of him.
"He's a throwback safety, like a Steve Atwater type of guy, a Ronnie Lott," Dawson said.
Ramirez said he has prepared himself for the physical challenge of being a college cornerback.
"I'm very physical, and in press coverage it's hard to get away from me because my arms are long and I'm strong," he said. "I can really come up there and beat a wide receiver, get off blocks and make a tackle, stuff like that."
Ramirez knows Arkansas has a veteran collection of cornerbacks like Tevin Mitchel, Carroll Washington, Will Hines and Jared Collins, and he thinks he can compete physically on their level.
"They're very smart and very talented, and they have a mental edge because they know the scheme stuff better, but I can come in and compete for a starting spot right away," Ramirez said. "At any school I had gone to, I believe that.
"So, I mean, it may be five-deep, it may be seven-deep. I'm going to work my way up to the top."
Ramirez was a National Honor Society member and part of the magnet program at Captain Shreve High School as a junior before deciding to finish his high school career at Evangel.
"My main focus is on him getting his education and getting his degree," said Ramirez's mother, LaKenya. "He's not your average athlete. He's also academically very good. He's majoring in kinesiology, and I think he can get his masters and his doctorate. I know he can do it."
Before the advanced degrees, however, lies the undergraduate work and football for Ramirez, who is used to intensive training.
"Evangel's kind of like a mini college," he said. "We got up at like 6 o'clock in the morning and had workouts on the field, weights, watch film, then we go to class and everything. Then we've got practice later in the afternoon, so it really did help. I got stronger, better, faster, know the game, know how to watch film.
"Evangel, everything was more disciplined, so that helped me coming to college."
Dawson said he knew Ramirez was an SEC-caliber athlete from the moment he arrived on campus.
"I think about my college experience and the guys that I played with, and there wasn't a corner on the team at LSU that looked like Santos -- not even at safety -- when I was playing in the late 1990s, early 2000s," he said. "We didn't have a guy with that type of size."
Ramirez said he is hungry and has already fallen in love with the campus and the camaraderie on the team. He said Arkansas' struggles last season didn't make his decision to play for the Razorbacks more difficult.
"It didn't bother me, because I know Coach B's got a plan for this team," he said. "As I see it right now, everything's going back in the right direction. Everybody has accountability for each other, and we're ready to go back to a bowl game."
Sports on 07/31/2014
Print Headline: Hogs get real steal in corner