While the University of Arkansas had a polish up practice on Wednesday for Saturday's season opener with visiting Missouri State, it was kind of anti-climatic.
That's because right before the practice the new middleweight boxing champion of the world - Arkansas' own Jermain Taylor - talked to the Razorbacks about how he got to the top and what they could do to strive to be their best this season.
"I appreciate Jermain Taylor today," UA head coach Houston Nutt said. "He came to speak to our team and I thought he really came from the heart with exactly the same things we have been saying since January 14 - it's about a work ethic, it's about an attitude and you have to bring it every single day. That's how he became a champion."
Taylor sandwiched meetings with Northwest Arkansas business leaders and an appearance on radio sports talk show Sports Rap around his talk to the players.
He said he told the Razorbacks that you can not take a practice off or even a play off if you want to get to the top.
"I had a great time and I am a proud to be a Razorback and proud to be a champion that is from Arkansas," Taylor said. "I just wanted to get across to them that you have to give 110 percent all the time, not just some of the time. You can't take any time off. You have got to push it all the time because somebody else always is and could take what you want."
UA senior linebacker Pierre Brown - recently named one of his team's five captains along with fellow seniors Vickiel Vaughn, Kyle Roper, Brandon Kennedy and Kyle Dickerson - said it was a thrill to meet and get to hear from Taylor.
"It was a thrill and I can remember watching the fight and rooting him on to win the championship fight," Brown said. "You should never underestimate words from a champion. He has hardships, but he is a hard worker and beat the odds. Like he said you do have to go 110 percent every time whether it is running a sprint or just competing in life.
"He got me and the other guys pumped up," Brown said. "He told us if you go 80 percent on one play it could change your life. He is a living example of what going 110 percent all the time can accomplish and it made a big impression on us."
As far the actual practice, Nutt said his team polished up things in a workout that lasted around 75 minutes.
"We took the pads off and just wore shells and had a very good day," Nutt said. "There was a lot of assignments, worked goal line and two minutes. It's getting closer and everybody can't wait."
Nutt said one things his staff has had to do is get the freshmen in tune with what goes on during game day.
"We are just trying to make sure they know where there moms and brothers come get the tickets and we get all that out of the way...," Nutt said. "You don't want any distractions. You want to 100 percent focused and well rested."
Speaking of true freshman, Nutt named several who will definitely see action on Saturday night.
They include linebackers Freddie Fairchild and Tyrell Graham, running backs Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, defensive tackle Cord Gray and wideout/returner Reggie Fish.
"From there on, you just don't know," Nutt said.
Nutt noted that two Razorbacks from the New Orleans area have been in touch with their families and they are at least doing okay physically.
"Darius Vinnett and Stephen Parker, both families got out of there," Nutt said. "They evacuated and they are doing good right now.
Nutt says that he suspects tight end Wes Murphy -who didn't practice again on Wednesday - will be unable to play.
"He's gotten better today," Nutt said. "He just jogged around the field today. He's starting to get some flexibility in that ankle, but we don't expect him to play."
Tight ends Mason Templeton and Marc Winston will definitely play with Lance Thompson probably also getting some time.
Mitch Petrus, a true freshman from Carlisle who has worked at tight end and tackle, will be prepared to play if there is a need.
Arkansas will finish up its preparations with a short practice on Thursday.
UA Wednesday Grid Report, 8-31
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