Anderson, Hogs Counting Blessings

FAYETTEVILLE -- Everybody is thankful for something today whether it's family, friends or good fortune.

Jamaal Anderson is thankful for all those things, but mainly for being part of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Anderson, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end from Little Rock, is one of six true freshman to play regularly on offense or defense, but is the only one who had to split the bill for his own tuition this fall.

Playing rush end in passing situations in all 10 games, Anderson won't have to pay for another book or lab. Coaches notified Anderson he will definitely be on scholarship beginning in January.

He was brought in as "gray shirt," a player who is promised a scholarship after their first semester if everything pans out as expected.

"It feels good and I feel like I should have had (a scholarship) from the get go (laughing)," Anderson said. "But seriously, I understood that we needed a lot of help in the secondary, so I didn't mind sacrificing a little for the team.

"And it makes it more important to me to earn my way here instead of just basing it on what I did in high school."

Anderson has made as much of an impact as any true freshman on defense with 17 tackles, including 11 solos, 2 for losses, 2 quarterback hurries, and a pass break up. He also blocked a punt against Louisiana-Monroe.

By following a strict protein diet, Anderson has added nearly 25 pounds since reporting for two-a-days which demonstrates another facet of his commitment to the program.

"I'm just really thankful that I'm up here and I'm getting the chance to play as a true freshman," Anderson said.

Anderson and the rest of the Razorbacks probably will add a few more pounds before Friday's 1:30 p.m. game against LSU in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.

They're having a Thanksgiving feast at the Embassy Suites hotel in Little Rock this afternoon. That's when some of the top Hogs say they'll turn into real pigs.

"When we're up here for Thanksgiving, it's like we're with our family away from our family," said linebacker Sam Olajubutu. "We can't be with our family at home, but at least we're with our second family, our teammates.

"We just gather up and relax a little bit. We stay focused for the game, but we have a good time."

Players' families are invited, but must dish out $20 per adult and $10 per child for a plate.

Defensive end Jeb Huckeba said it's worth it, adding that his family will come in from Searcy for the meal. The senior said today's feast is a quite a difference from the Thanksgiving meal the Hogs ate in a Baton Rouge, La., hotel on this day a year ago.

"The freshman aren't going to be ready for it," Huckeba said. "The one in Little Rock is unbelievable. There are probably like three different lines of 15 dishes in each line. They have every type of food you can think of and it's just all real good.

"There's a fruit table that's decorated and they have a separate table for every type of dessert you want.

"They won't be ready. That's all I got to say."

A lot of the talk this week was underclassmen wondering what kind of food will be served. Of course, they're all expecting turkey, dressing and stuffing, but a few had special requests.

Freshman receiver Marcus Monk, who's from the rural town of Lepanto, may have the most interesting family tradition.

"We always eat chitlins," Monk said. "At least, if we can find them."

Cornerback Darius Vinnett, a junior college transfer who is originally from Louisiana, said his family always eats gumbo on Thanksgiving.

"If they have some gumbo on the table, then I'm going to be excited," Vinnett said. "I doubt they'll have gumbo, though, but turkey will be all right."

Others hope to see dishes like cornbread casserole, giblet gravy, deviled eggs and broccoli with cheese.

Keith Jackson, a sophomore nose guard from Little Rock who had his first Thanksgiving meal with the team last season, said it'll be nice to have his family with him this time around.

"It is going to be a little more special to me because they will be able to be with me on Thanksgiving Day," Jackson said. "But I can't say that the food is going to be better than momma's, because that's momma's cooking now.

"It's pretty good though, but like sweet potato pie. They have it, but it ain't as good as momma's."

Either way, most of the players from the Little Rock area will end up at their parents' house -- most plan to bring a teammate or two -- after Friday's game to raid refrigerators for leftovers.

But others are fortunate and thankful they won't have to warm up any turkey or dressing.

"We've got family coming in from Georgia and they're just going to wait on me to have a meal," said redshirt freshman fullback Farod Jackson. "So I'll get a hot, home-cooked meal and I like honey maple ham and macaroni. That ham, with the little frost on it ... Mmm! We won't get nothing like that at the hotel buddy. It'll be at home.

"Man, I can't wait."

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