Families Of Two Razorbacks Escape Worst Of Katrina

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two Arkansas starting football players from the New Orleans, La., area said Wednesday their families had escaped the brunt of the damages from Hurricane Katrina this week.

Darius Vinnett, a senior cornerback from St. Rose, La. (nine miles west of New Orleans), said, "My family is cool. They came here to stay in a hotel. We can't get in touch with anybody back home except my brother, Terrill. He stayed at home and said it wasn't too bad, except the doors blew off."

Stanley and Dorothy Vinnett, Darius's parents, plan to attend the Missouri State-Arkansas game on Saturday night.

Stephen Parker, Arkansas' junior left guard from Mandeville, La., said his parents, UA graduates Jay and Charlotte Parker, followed a mandatory evacuation of their home on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain on Sunday.

"It took them 12 hours to drive to my grandparents' house in Dumas usually a four and three-quarter-hours drive," Parker said. "They can't receive calls on their Louisiana cell phones, so my dad drove back home later to make sure no trees fell on our house."

The Parkers live above sea level, across the causeway from New Orleans.

"We're not in the flood zone like some of my buddies that go to LSU, Tulane and the University of New Orleans," Parker said. "A couple of pine trees were leaning on our house, but nothing serious. They showed our public library on CNN. New Orleans just got crushed. It's crazy the power is out and there are no grocery stores. I can text-message people, but they can't call me."

Parker, a 6-foot-4, 314-pound former walk-on who started all 11 games for Arkansas last season, said, "It's kind of hard to focus on football when you're wondering about the house you grew up in. But I've always been able to block stuff out."

In 1992, the Parker family evacuated their home and drove to northern Mississippi to get away from Hurricane Andrew.

"A Category 5 hurricane like this one you can't mess around," Parker said. "It puts things in perspective. I'm just thankful my family is safe and my dog is OK."

World middleweight champion Jermain Taylor of Little Rock spoke to his beloved Razorbacks football team before Wednesday's practice.

"It was amazing," Taylor said. "I got to call all the Hogs."

Taylor, who said he liked Arkansas' "nice campus," talked later about his talk with the Hogs during a visit to the Sports Rap radio call-in show: "At first I was nervous, but the Hogs welcomed me and I took it from there. I'm sitting there talking to the team I love the Razorbacks.

"I'm No. 1 and I want them to be No. 1. I felt the love in the room a connection."

Taylor said he urged the Hogs to give 110 percent in every practice.

UA coach Houston Nutt said, "I appreciate Jermain Taylor speaking to our team. He came from the heart. He talked about exactly the sort of things we do: work ethic, attitude and being consistent every day how to become a champion."

Taylor said the things that took him farthest in his career were "Yes, sir and no, sir."

He must have made an impact on the Razorbacks, because Nutt said, "We had a very good day. We took the pads off, worked on goal line and two-minute drill. Everybody can't wait (for the opener)."

Nutt's televised appearance on the ESPN segment "Outside the Lines," postponed from an earlier date, was scheduled to air at 11:40 p.m. Wednesday. Host Bob Ley planned to chat with Nutt and writer Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun.

Jonathan Luigs, a versatile 6-4, 301-pound second-year freshman from Pulaski Academy, will open at right guard against Missouri State.

Luigs overcame a lacerated right calf, courtesy of a blocking sled during spring drills, and won a battle with Tyler Morgan for the starting job. Luigs fell ill late in Tuesday's practice but returned Wednesday.

Robert Felton, formerly a starter at right guard, will start at right tackle after switching positions this preseason with current guard Zac Tubbs, who is out with a high ankle sprain.

Both Tubbs and fellow Cullman, Ala., native Cody Green (bulging back discs) could only walk around the field on Tuesday and Wednesday and will not play Saturday. Tight end Jared Hicks is sidelined, too, with a high ankle sprain.

Tight end Wes Murphy, who could only do light jogging on his sore ankle Wednesday, also will not play. Mason Templeton and Marc Winston are the top two tight ends now, with second-year freshmen Lance Thompson and Mitch Petrus in reserve.

Vinnett said his knees, after a recent bout with tendonitis, felt fine on Wednesday.

Hogs receiver Chris Baker has also been slowed by tendonitis in his left knee. His playing status for Saturday is questionable.

The last two Razorbacks to leave the practice field on Wednesday, after 6 p.m., were No. 1 punter Jacob Skinner and apparent No. 1 placekicker Chris Balseiro.

Nutt reiterated Wednesday that he expected to play true freshmen Freddie Fairchild, Tyrell Graham, Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, Cord Gray and Reggie Fish, and perhaps others.

He wouldn't say how much running backs Jones and McFadden would play, but both continue to get lots of practice time.

A Beat Missouri State pep rally will be held at 8 p.m. today at the Chi Omega Greek Theatre.

On Saturday at 4 p.m., fans may greet the team on the Poultry Science Building lawn and at the Broyles Center parking lot. An alumni pep rally will be held at 4:15 p.m. at the Alumni Association building.

Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

With no television, UA officials expect a crowd approaching 70,000.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories