Former Hogs Preparing For Bowls

FAYETTEVILLE -- Steven Harris said he has found much more time to spend with his wife, Winter, and their two children this holiday season.

That's because the former Arkansas receiver's schedule suddenly lightened after his collegiate career ended with the Razorbacks' 43-14 loss against LSU on Nov. 26. Harris said he enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend with family, had time to prepare for final exams and put on 10 pounds in his time off.

But Harris' new personal trainer, former Arkansas track athlete Kelvin Kelly, made him pay for the down time a couple weeks ago.

"He wore me out last week," Harris said. "To be truthful, he just wore me out."

Harris is one of Arkansas' outgoing seniors making the transition from college athlete to professional hopeful, preparing for this winter's slate of senior bowls, workouts for pro scouts and April's 2004 NFL Draft. The Hogs won't be playing in a bowl game this winter, but Harris, quarterback Matt Jones, defensive end Jeb Huckeba, running back DeCori Birmingham and defensive tackle Arrion Dixon will make one more outing in their Arkansas uniforms.

Harris said he will play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Jan. 22 and is holding out hope for an invitation to one more all-star game, like the Gridiron Classic in Florida. Dixon is penciled in for a trip to Hawaii to play in the Hula Bowl the same day. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said DeCori Birmingham is trying to get into the Gridiron Classic.

Jones has accepted an invitation to play in the prestigious Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Jan. 29. Huckeba is an alternate for the game and said he's also hoping to play in the Hula Bowl or the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco on Jan. 22.

"You're having to do it on your own," Dixon said. "You've got nobody else to worry about because you're not with a team right now. You've got to motivate yourself to go out here and do what you want to do. That's the big deal with this.

"I feel good about playing in the Hula Bowl. There's nothing to be worried about. I've played with guys the same talent. It's all going to be good players, but nothing we didn't face in the (Southeastern Conference)."

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Dixon signed with Houston-based agent Jason Medlock, who also represents former Razorbacks Ken Hamlin, Jason Peters and Lawrence Richardson. Dixon spent the past couple weeks shuttling back and forth between Houston and Fayetteville, where he has begun a workout routine that'll help him shed 10 pounds and rebuild the weight in muscle.

He said he'll make a full-time jump to Houston after the holidays to continue working out and will report to Hawaii a week before the Hula Bowl.

Jones said he'll leave Monday to attend a speed school in the New York area, while Huckeba is planning to travel to Phoenix for workouts after the holidays.

Harris will stay in Fayetteville with his family after signing with an agency based out of Little Rock, but will leave for Las Vegas in the middle of January. He'll take part in a week-long event that'll be closely monitored by about 150 NFL personnel.

"I think maybe the closer I get to (the Las Vegas Bowl) it will probably be more nerve-wracking," Harris said. "Right now it's exciting. You get a chance to play football again against some of the best in the nation. People might not know where you stand, actually, as far as the national scene because they've only seen you in this conference, they've only seen you against certain players.

"But they get a chance to see you practice against some of the best in the country with a whole bunch of NFL personnel there. You're talking about a lot of exposure."

Huckeba has realized that is exactly what the next few months are all about.

He got a good taste of it while he was selecting his agent, comparing the process to being a high school athlete trying to select a college. It's imperative to make a good decision because the agent selected will be responsible for introducing and marketing his client to NFL personnel during the next few months.

But, of course, Huckeba said there is one major difference between selecting a school and choosing an agent. There is much more money involved in the agent game.

"It has been a neat process meeting these guys and the agents I've interviewed," Huckeba said. "They're some incredible people. They're kind of like entertainers. I got to go to St. Louis and stayed the weekend with (an agent) Harold Lewis. He had the most unbelievable house I've ever seen. He let me drive his Ferrari. It was crazy."

This year's small crop of draft-eligible Razorbacks isn't loaded with NFL potential like last year's group, which included Peters, cornerback Ahmad Carroll, offensive lineman Shawn Andrews and linebackers Tony Bua and Caleb Miller.

Arkansas won't match last April's production on draft weekend when six Hogs were selected, two in the first round, and seven more signed free agent contracts. But that's not stopping the outgoing seniors from starting their full-time football careers.

"It's exciting," Harris said. "It's the next stage of life and these are the steps that you have to take to get there.

"I look at it this way, if I can get one of them to like me, one of them to think that I'm a great player, that's all I need."

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