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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Audience comes together as one for head Hog

by Wally Hall | August 25, 2021 at 2:57 a.m.

They came early and stood in line in hopes of a choice seat.

Sam Pittman was speaking to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Tuesday for the first time, and probably one of the bigger indoor crowds since the covid-19 outbreak came together to hear what the University of Arkansas football coach had to say.

Just over 600 men and women jammed the ballroom at the DoubleTree hotel in Little Rock.

They were young and old. Tall and short. Some wore masks.

There was no party affiliation or argument about vaccines. It was one room full of Razorback football fans.

Red was the dominant color.

Pittman was not doing the traditional pictures or shaking of hands after the meeting. He was playing it virus safe, although he couldn't help himself when he spotted a man to the far right of the room. Pittman walked off the stage and pulled on a mask as he crossed the room and embraced the man in a bear hug.

Pittman didn't look like the same guy who had accepted the Arkansas job two years ago this December.

That day he was dressed in black and red and looked like a Georgia coach. On Tuesday, he was whole Hog with a white shirt and red tie.

While founder David Bazzel was doing his usual 12 minutes of introductions, Pittman sat quietly, smiling from time to time.

When Bazzel announced that sponsor Simmons Bank had holdings of $25 billion, Pittman leaned over to Simmons Chairman and CEO George Makris and asked for a picture together.

That was the first of several laughs he earned.

When Bazzel ran through the list of this year's speakers, Pittman said, "I'm glad I'm going first."

Pittman came to entertain and get more of a feel for the Capital City. He did not come to reveal game plans, strategies or plays.

He mentioned few players by name, but what he was doing was allowing the people to get to know their football coach on an up close and personal level.

Pittman was low-keyed and deep in sincerity.

When it was announced that Big Red stores had taped 40 $25 gift cards under the chairs, Pittman didn't reach under his. Instead, he watched and shared the enjoyment of those who found the cards.

As Bazzel introduced him and said he was appearing for free, Pittman looked down the row at his agent, Judy Henry, and asked if that was right.

Another laugh.

He did give a summary of the players he wants to recruit: blue-collar, hardworking, chip on their shoulder and with high character.

Pittman wants the players from out of state to have as much pride in wearing the Razorback uniform as the ones who grew up in the state.

He talked about his staff, especially the coordinators and strength and conditioning coach, and how important it was to keep them for a second year because they are the most hands-on with the players.

He shared that the staff wants kids who can multitask and play more than one position. He explained that allows more kids to get into practice, and the more they practice the less chance they get homesick.

He talked about name, image and likeness, and that the offensive line had a barbecue deal and he wished the whole team had it.

When it came to his personal involvement in NIL, "I'm Mr. out of it," he said in a booming voice.

There is no "woe is me" in the Razorback football program because if something is broke it is going to get fixed.

The last thing he said was, "The kids define themselves."

Sam Pittman is a selfless, hardworking coach who cares about his players and staff, and he fits Arkansas like a red leather glove.

Print Headline: Audience comes together as one for head Hog

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