Former Razorback Luigs reflects on Petrino, NFL career

Former Arkansas all-American and Little Rock native Jonathan Luigs remembers everything about when he was offered a scholarship to play at Arkansas.

Shortly before playing for the 2003 state championship at Pulaski Academy, Luigs said he had a standing offer from Vanderbilt that he had planned to take. But days before the game, he was told that then-Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt was extending an offer for him to play in Fayetteville.

Luigs accepted and later helped the Bruins' to their first-ever state title. After the game, he said, he and his friends went out to do some celebrating.

"Then, I got home later that night and I got sick," Luigs said with a smirk, evoking laughter from the crowd of around 150 Little Rock Touchdown Club members Monday afternoon. "So I'm not sure what that was all about."

Luigs, who won the Rimington Trophy in 2007 for being the nation's best center, recalled playing for the Razorbacks when he blocked for the backfield trio of Felix Jones, Darren McFadden and Peyton Hillis.

Luigs said he empathizes with the current Razorback team, comparing the 2013 season to the 4-7 season in 2005 at Arkansas, in which he was a redshirt freshman.

Luigs also related his position in the 2008 season, the first under former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, to current Razorback senior center Travis Swanson's as far as having to adjust to a new offensive scheme and coaching style.

A 2009 fourth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, Luigs also said that he "kind of regretted" not coming out for the 2008 NFL Draft after winning the Rimington Trophy that season. He said his regret was mainly due the struggles of transitioning from Nutt's run-oriented style in 2007 to Petrino's wide-open offensive scheme in 2008. He added that former Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Markuson also told him he needed more time to develop his talent before making the jump to the pros.

Luigs added that Petrino was a great coach but "not a great leader of men." He later expounded on that thought with the media, saying while Petrino was the kind of coach who was talented on the field, he wasn't personally interested in the players. He added that Petrino ran the program with a "military-" style approach.

But when Luigs got to Arkansas, he said, he wanted to make sure that he wasn't a "wasted scholarship."

"I wasn't sure I fit in," he said, later crediting his success in college to a strong work ethic and a solid team around him.

The former all-SEC lineman ended his professional career after one season in 2009, when he was waived due to repeated hip injuries that later forced his retirement after playing in only eight career games. He currently works for Trane Heating and Air Conditioning in Northwest Arkansas, where he and his wife are building a house.

Luigs, an avid outdoorsman, said he's enjoying having time to fish during his break from football.

Luigs said that he takes the end of his professional career "with a grain of salt," because the injuries were out of his control.

Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.