Huckeba This Season's Go-To Guy

FAYETTEVILLE -- No matter the outcome of this morning's bowl-elimination game, you'll read lots of quotes from Razorbacks senior defensive end Jeb Huckeba within the yards of postgame inches dedicated in Sunday's sports section to Arkansas' football matchup against Ole Miss in Razorback Stadium.

You probably have noticed the plethora of Huckeba quotes this season have been as consistent as Huckeba's hard-charging play.

Not only has Huckeba become the Hogs' best player, but he is this season's standup guy.

Yeah, we in the media do play favorites.

Every season, we find one. Last season it was classy receiver George Wilson, so sincere and articulate he was a repeat performer.

Season before, defensive lineman Jermaine Brooks was the go-to guy. Unfortunately, others were going to him for all the wrong reasons. Live and learn. Think we all have.

Most Division I football players, particularly the headliners, can handle adversity and reporters in stride, no matter the mess.

Some do it much better than others.

But some guys just can't - er, won't -handle meeting the press after a close, particularly disappointing loss, even though most everyone knows that if you talk on the record after doing well you should darned well do the same when you don't.

Pro or college, it's part of the job. Yeah, job. Division I players are rewarded with scholarships for handling obligations, and that includes postgame interviews. They should remember they are talking to you, the fans, through us.

After last week's 35-32 loss at South Carolina, Arkansas senior quarterback Matt Jones scrambled away after tossing the game-finishing interception toward three Gamecocks near the goal-line and junior safety Vickiel Vaughn avoided the media blitz after missing a 1-on-1 tackle of receiver Troy Williams on the Gamecocks' winning touchdown play.

Of course, reporters also wanted to talk to Vaughn about the interception return for Arkansas' first touchdown, but didn't get the chance.

And we've come to expect Jones - hardly as dazzling in front of tape recorders as in front of 70,000 fans -to be hit or miss.

Which brings us back to Huckeba, or rather to his locker, a trampled path we know well. Today, we'll gather in front of it for the last time in his career as this is Senior Day, the last go in Razorback Stadium for the veterans.

Regardless of today's outcome, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Huckeba will be standing there -tall, sweaty, a red crease on his brow, grass stains everywhere else, shoulder pads likely still on -as he addresses question after question (many of the same ones coming from different folks) with remarkable insight and calm. He'll be polite and thorough. He won't sigh (at least not at us) or cut answers short, no matter the pain he may well be carrying.

We've come to expect nothing less from this extraordinary son of Ronnie and Peggy Huckeba who was schooled at Searcy's Harding Academy and stiff-armed big-time programs like Florida State and Nebraska to stay home with the Hogs.

Ronnie's a football assistant at Harding University, so what did Huckabe do on his off-Saturday night two weeks back? Yep, went to a Harding football game.

See, Huckeba goes with the flow.

A Parade All-American, Huckeba played in all 11 games of his freshman season as a reserve at outside linebacker. As a sophomore, he was moved to the middle, playing in 13 of 14 games of that Southeastern Conference Western Division championship season.

Last year, he finally moved to his natural position (think speed) of defensive end, making such an impact in starting all 13 games that he was named a second-teamer on the All-SEC Preseason squad.

That's not the most important thing to Huckeba, though.

Nope, this guy who devotes chunks of his summers to Habitat For Humanity and mission trips, is most proud that he has been a perennial member of the SEC Academic Honor Rolls as well as the UA's Lon Farrell Academic Honor Rolls.

So we like him for lots more reasons than his athletic ability and eloquence.

You do, too.

Let him hear about it today as Huckeba plays his heart out for the 3-5 Hogs who must win today, win at Mississippi State next Saturday and somehow knock off LSU in Little Rock on Nov. 26 to have a shot at the Independence Bowl.

How this will play out is anybody's guess.

Either way, Huckeba will tell us all about it.

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