Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is excited about having his Razorbacks back in AT&T Stadium this fall and believes Arkansas has the right guy in charge to revive the program.
Those were some of the things Jones shared with the media on hand Friday for a golf tournament honoring former Arkansas head football coach and athletic director Frank Broyles for his 55 years of service to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas will play Texas A&M Sept. 27 in Arlington – a resumption of a neutral site game that was last played there in 2011 and the first of an 11-year contract between the two schools to play at that site.
"Nothing — nothing, nothing — has made me prouder with the Cowboys, or anything — the Super Bowl, the Final Four — than to know the Arkansas Razorbacks are playing football in that stadium," Jones said. "That's just a dream come true for me. When I was building it, when I was thinking about building it, there wasn't a day that I didn't think about helping those Pigs out by playing in that stadium."
The Razorbacks beat the Aggies in each of the past three contests between the two played at Cowboys Stadium.
Arkansas is coming off a pair of sub-par seasons – 4-8 under interim head coach John L. Smith after the ouster of Bobby Petrinto and then 3-9 last season in Bret Bielema's first season at the helm.
"I really, really think our coach is the answer," Jones said. "I have a lot of respect for him. People that really know him — people in scouting in the NFL that would know, who visit with him about his players — really respect his philosophy. I like it as to what our competition is, what we match up against. I think he's a perfect coach for the match-up. We all want to be able to beat LSU … we want to be able to beat Alabama and those big teams. And to do that, we're going to need some big linemen on both sides of the ball."
Jones invited Bielema to join him in his suite last season at a pair of Cowboys games.
"He's been down to the stadium on two or three occasions," Jones said. "I think a lot of him.
We've visited about the players that were on his team this year, through the drafting process."
• • •
Jones noted that Broyles has been the face of Razorback athletics for over 50 years and told a story about former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman to illustrate.
"For 50 years he has been the face and when we thought about the university and we thought about the team, we had our man here," Jones said. "The man was here. When I am away, I know you are there.
"Troy Aikman was talking one time about a Super Bowl play against Buffalo in our first Super Bowl," Jones added. "He dropped back quickly and didn't even look and then boom! He hits 15 yards away and there was (tight end Jay) Novacek. Boom! Right there, touchdown! Man, the linebackers and everybody else are looking at Aikman and man they didn't see it coming.
"How did you know to throw the ball?," Jones continued telling the story. "The world saw you didn't look over there any more than the man in the moon. He said, 'Because I knew he was there. Didn't have to see him, I knew he was there.' He threw it without looking in the biggest game and the biggest play he ever made because he knew he was there.
"There are a whole bunch of folks in this room that spent a lot of our time that has to do with the University and and that made your great career because we always knew you were there," Jones said. "Coach I know everybody in this room appreciates you."
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Broyles is given a lot of credit for the way he took Arkansas from a small school with a small budget in the Southwest Conference into the SEC, which is regarded as the nation's top overall conference.
He did so in 1991 and it likely kept Arkansas from finding itself as a independent.
"His forward-thinking — I want to use the word creative but I've got to more use forward-thinking," Jones said, " … his vision of how to finance a program. His scholarship program. The Razorback Foundation. A lot of people in sports give him credit for that idea. Certainly for showing college sports how to make it work and how to sell that. … That Razorback Foundation has been emulated in many, many ways.
"Just like his sense of when and how to put facilities together to help be successful," Jones added. "The understanding that we certainly want to be proud, but in Arkansas, when players visit, you want to be proud about the school, but he also understood — whether it's misplaced or not — that the visibility of sports, the place it plays in motivating people, motivating schools."
• • •
Jones was asked if he ever thought about trying to hire Broyles away from Arkansas when he was the athletic director at the school.
He responded that he was afraid it would have been like taking Johnny Manziel in the last NFL draft.
"No, no," Jones said. "And by the way, that was almost like whether to take Manziel or not. Because I knew how beloved he was here, and I was very concerned how that would be perceived with me getting him come down (to Dallas). I always thought I was getting a lot of him from the standpoint of our relationship. He's been a great friend. … If I ask, he will really weigh in. And he will really give me his thoughts and his assessment. He's really good at that."
Jones then expounded on how tough it was to not take Manziel and have him in place for when current quarterback Tony Romo was done.
"Yes it was," Jones said. "First of all, I couldn't believe he'd fallen there, and secondly, we'd spent a lot of time …. He's the kind of player that can be a difference-maker, there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be a successful player. But we have in Romo what I consider to be the better quarterback. But there's also the future and there's also insurance if you don't have him. If anybody could adjust to Manziel's style, we could have. We're a lot that way with Romo."
Arkansas, Texas A&M will meet on Sept. 27 in a resumption of the Southwest Classic.
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