ROGERS - Arkansas started a two-day love-fest with its fans on Friday as over 1,000 of them attended the 2011 Razorback Football Kickoff Luncheon at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.
Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, his current players, former head coaches Frank Broyles and Ken Hatfield, current athletic director Jeff Long and numerous former players were on hand for the event.
The fans, who had one or two players at each table, heard Petrino talk about some motivational words he learned from his dad and has applied to his program for this season.
"It's okay to have high expectations," Petrino said. "Don't let anybody tell you that you can't win. Don't let anybody sell you short. That's what we learned as a group, as a football team and as a state, it's OK to have high expectations. Now let's go get it."
Going to get some players may be easier with the new football complex, which Razorback athletic director Jeff Long noted would have ground breaking ceremonies on Nov. 4 – the day before a game with visiting South Carolina.
The complex – which Arkansas has raised 28.4 million dollars of an expected $35 million cost - will house new coaches' offices, new locker rooms along with a new sports medicine center. It is expected to take some 18-24 months to complete.
The project was jump-started with a $10 million dollar gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and then the fans took over per Long.
"They stepped up in a big way and challenged Razorback Nation to raise $18.4 million dollars…We announced yesterday that we were able to meet that challenge in less than a year," Long said. "It takes a partnership, it takes everybody stepping up and we now have $28.4 million toward that $35 million project. So we are in the home stretch."
The Razorbacks, who will practice Saturday morning and then host their Fan Day Saturday from 2-4 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.
"What I like most about our football team is we have great leadership from within the team," Petrino said. "And not just our captains, you know? It takes everyone from within the team to make a special team," Petrino said "…We've had guys come to practice each day, willing to grind. That's what gives us a chance to be a good football team."
He also shared a bit of his leadership style, derived from listening to a speech of General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Petrino said to succeed a leader must:
1) Be totally competent
2) Love your cause
3) Love your men
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Petrino, whose team had a scrimmage Thursday night that was closed to the public and media, got a standing ovation when introduced.
Some of the points he hit on were:
• He had learned a lot about his team during preseason practice – some good, some not so good
• There was good leadership on his team and not just from the captains.
• There has been a real positive attitude in camp
• There was a great group of newcomers
• While it was 15 days before season opener, he wishes he had 30 days.
• There was a real long, hard scrimmage last night, but just weren't a team yet.
• He expects the offense to score because of preparation and this season he expects the defense to go 3 and out.
• Petrino believes his team grew up and learned how to win last season
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• He also noted that he loves the excitement from the fans, including those he first sees from the team bus on Saturdays.
"I see the guys in the tents, guys drinking beer, guys going crazy. It's fun," Petrino said. "It's part of college football, no doubt about it."
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Five of their six captains were on hand on to take questions from emcee Jimmy Dykes, but injured Knile Davis was unable to attend.
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Dykes on Petrino: "By the way he is dressed today, he didn't come here to paint."
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Some of the other highlights included:
• Matt Marshall and Chris Smith singing the gospel song Grateful by Hezekiah Walker
• Freshman offensive tackle Austin Beck was picked as the Razorback with no chance to win So You think you can Dance
• Isaac Madison doing a dead-on imitation of Petrino, but asked first to please not be kicked off the team
• Long's deep pass intended for Ben Cleveland last year at the event was intercepted by cornerback Ramon Broadway – which Long says sparked the Razorbacks to a good defensive year.
This season he threw a short pass to tailback/kick returner Dennis Johnson – to a musical beat featuring the words "Go D.J." – and says he hopes for better special teams.
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