Senior tight end AJ Derby said he sat up straight when Arkansas legendary letterman Jim Lindsey began to talk last April about what happened 50 years ago with his team. Derby is still crystal clear on what was said one week into fall camp.
Derby, given a scholarship by head coach Bret Bielema just a few days into camp, was passionate at Arkansas media day as he talked about the past and the future for the Razorbacks.
“It was so great to have a man like that come to us and give us the history,” Derby said. “I didn't grow up in Arkansas, so I needed all of that. It was an awesome meeting and something I won't ever forget.”
Then, there came the 2014 Arkansas media guide, shot this summer, a replica of what was on the 1964 guide, before the Hogs won the national championship with a 11-0 mark.
“We have a chip on our shoulders,” Derby said. “And, we want to live and play the Razorback way, the way Mr. Lindsey told us to do it. Our goal is to do what they did. It was an honor to have them on our cover and to be there beside them.”
The desired effect came through. Derby, an Iowa product, couldn't know about the 1964 National Champs from Arkansas. He's too young and raised too far away. But he felt pride when he saw his picture, along with the other 2014 seniors,on the cover of the media guide with all of those great seniors from '64.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has studied the Arkansas history books and now has a great feel for what the Hogs did in 1964. He had a great thrill this summer to spend three hours, along with his wife Jen, at the Key Largo, Fla., home of Jimmy Johnson.
“I did the Google when I got here to find out about the 1964 team,” Bielema said. “So I knew a lot before sitting down with Coach Johnson. I had done the history lesson and found out about those players and all they've become. I knew a little, but I know a lot now.
“That's why I brought in Mr. Lindsey to talk to our team last spring. He did a wonderful job. He held their attention all the way through, with humor when it was needed, and emotion when that was needed. He made a great impression with our players. It was VERY impressive.
“I think they were spell bound. He told them what it means to be a Razorback. For our guys who are from Arkansas, he had them, because Mr. Lindsey grew up just like they did, to be Razorbacks.
“And, for the players from outside the state, it was important for them to hear his message. And, he did it in a wonderful way so that a 20-year-old was on the edge of their seat, captivating them.”
Bielema said he felt the same way as Johnson told him stories after a day chasing big fish in the ocean, doing what both the coaches love, saltwater action.
“The first thing Coach Johnson did was ask about two men, Mr. Lindsey and Dean Weber,” Bielema said. “Then, he told stories. I so wish I had some tape of that team, that era, that season. Because we wanted to put that on the big screen as part of our intro for this season as we come to the field.
“I've asked for it, but we can't find what we'd want from that season. It's like that everywhere, there just isn't quality video much anymore, not as much as we would want. I'd like to just watch a game tape.”
Bielema has met so many of the legendary figures from the 1964 team and has great respect for what they've done since their days at Arkansas.
“So many are wonderfully successful,” Bielema said. “Obviously, they played with great mental intellect and that's what made them great on the field and off-the-field. They combined the mental and the physical to be great football players.”
Told that Lindsey said one of their favorite drills as players was a “fight drill,” and the team relied on a defense that fought until the whistle, Bielema laughed a bit.
“I get that,” he said. “You can't call drills fight anymore. You just can't do it. But we do some of those things with bull-in-the-ring drills. It's a lot of the same stuff.”
The history lessons are important, Bielema said. He encouraged his assistant coaches to tell their story earlier this camp. Tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr., a Ft. Smith product, wanted to make sure the team knew they had won SEC West crowns. He played on the 1995 team that delivered the first.
“I told our players we have been four quarters short of (the SEC championship) three times,” Lunney said. “We can do that. I know because I've been that close.
“I think it was important last spring for Mr. Lindsey to speak to our players. We've got 38 from Arkansas that have the same feelings as he does, but there are another 60-plus who aren't from Arkansas. His talk made a major impact on them.
“Our cover of the media guide says, 'Respect the Past, Represent the Future,' and to know that, you have to know the past. I tried to take the guys back to when I played, when we began in the SEC, that first game and I remember playing in it.”
Lunney told of some of the great ones.
“I explained why there is no number 12, because Clyde Scott wore it and it's retired and about Steve Little, the other 12,” he said. “I told them why it's called Frank Broyles Field.”
Can the Hogs get back to the SEC Championship game?
“I know we can,” Derby said. “We are headed that direction with Coach Bielema. You can get to 14-0, too. But you do it the 1-0 way, what Coach Bielema has instilled in us. We get there with a 1-0 start at Auburn.”
State of the Hogs: History Lesson
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