Razorback Q&A: Decori Birmingham
In the war for the 2001 SEC West crown, the Arkansas Razorbacks Football squad was often forced to fight defensive battles. For much of the season the offense struggled to put points on the board or even get first downs. The offense seemed to be shooting blanks much of the time. There just seemed to be no firepower, no playmakers. But this season looks to be much different with a heavy arsenal of talented skill position players on the squad.
One particularly volatile weapon has emerged this spring, wide receiver Decori Birmingham. This sophomore from Atlanta, TX has been permanently moved from tailback and enlisted in the wide receiver corps, and appears ready to establish himself as a serious big play threat for the Hogs. His combination of quickness, precision routes, and fantastic hands has already made him a favorite target for Arkansas quarterbacks.
What makes Decori most dangerous, though, is his ability after the catch. He is shifty and oh so slippery with a knack for breaking tackles. Houston Nutt has incorporated him in many ways into the offense, also using him on screens and in the option. The success of the Razorback offensive attack will certainly rely heavily upon him next fall. I managed to get clearance to assess the Hogs' secret weapon, Decori Birmingham, for this week's Q & A. I just hope the safety is on.
Nathan Striegler: Decori, evaluate your first season as a Hog.
Decori Birmingham: It was pretty good. I expected to contribute more than what I did but I was pretty satisfied with what I did, catching the game winner against Ole Miss and just being a role player.
NS: You caught the decisive two-point conversion pass in the seventh overtime against the Rebels. What did that mean for you?
DB: It means a lot to me because that was the longest game in college history and to have your name up there and always be remembered as the guy who caught the winning two-point conversion is really big. Everybody on the team played great.
NS: You recently changed from tailback to wide receiver. What was your initial reaction?
DB: I kinda had mixed feelings because I've always been a running back. I got to play a little bit up here and I just figured that was where I was gonna stay. But I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. I made the transition and I'm enjoying playing receiver. Coach Shibest is a good coach and we've got a lot of guys helping me out. George Wilson, Richard Smith, Sparky (Hamilton) ... they're all really taking their time, being patient with me, and showing me what to do. I think the transition to receiver is going to be a good one for me.
NS: Are you starting to feel more comfortable out there?
DB: Yah. I get the ball out there away from everybody where it's me one on one with a defensive back and still kinda have running back skills. So whenever I catch it I turn into a running back again. It gives me more opportunities to make something happen.
NS: What is your mindset when you make a catch and there are defenders standing between you and paydirt?
DB: I just want to make a move and then outrun everybody. Most of the time when you catch it out there you might have two or three to beat. So you try to make the first one miss and then outrun the others.
NS: Decori is an interesting name. How did you end up with it?
DB: My mom wanted to call me Cory. She loved that name. But my Grandma was like "Let's add something different to it. There are a lot of Cory's out there but there aren't many Decori's." So they added the de to it and it stuck.
NS: Judging from what I've seen thus far, it's pretty apparent that the offense has improved a great deal since last year.
DB: Last year we had Zak and he was a good quarterback and a leader but he left. Now we've got Matt (Jones), Ryan (Sorahan), and Tarvaris (Jackson) and they're all stepping up and taking control of this team. Last year everybody doubted us so we just really wanted to prove everybody wrong but now people know what we can do. So now it's just a matter of bringing home a SEC championship and hopefully a BCS bowl game.
NS: How much does it help the confidence of the offense to be working this well together and to move the ball this well early on against a solid defense?
DB: It really helps our confidence. I feel that we have one of the best defenses in the SEC, if not the country. For us to be able to go out there and run the ball, pass the ball, and execute it gives us a lot of confidence this early on. The SEC is a tough conference. If we can do it against our guys, we can do it against anybody.
NS: Is there a bit of a competitive rivalry between the offense and the defense?
DB: Yah. We both know that we can't win without the other. We are really competitive when we scrimmage or practice because that's the only way anybody is gonna get better.
NS: If you could have an all expenses paid dream vacation, what would it be like?
DB: I'd probably go to the Bahamas. I'd go out there with some of my friends and just chill and have a good time. I don't really know what we'd do once we got there but if it's all expenses paid, I guess we'd do whatever we want.
NS: Who did you admire growing up?
DB: I admire my Dad. He played college football and he played receiver. He had a lot of adversity to overcome because he blew out his knee and he overcame that. It was his senior year in college and he was like, "OK I messed my knee up so I'm not gonna get to play football again, so I've got to continue on with my life." He got everything straight and he provided for his family. I really admire my Dad.
NS: What are some of the difficulties that you face as a student athlete?
DB: Time. You never have enough time. You wake up and go to class, you come back and go to the (Broyles) Complex and work out, then you go to study hall, then you come back and you really don't have even an hour of social time. I guess it's all part of being a student athlete. You have to get everything prioritized. You have to manage your time so you can stay ahead in your books and still be top notch on the field.
NS: It probably doesn't help much with a bunch of nosy reporters wanting to ask you questions.
DB: I like giving interviews because a lot of times people ask questions and you can tell them what's really going on. Sometimes people make assumptions about what's going on and they don't really know the facts. If you ask somebody who knows what's going on then you can stop a lot of rumors and stuff like that.
NS: Did you get to hunt for Eggs on Easter?
DB: Nah. I didn't get a chance to do anything over Easter. I went to church but that's about it. I didn't even get to have an Easter dinner.
NS: What's your favorite Easter candy?
DB: I'm gonna have to say, those Hershey Bunnies.
NS: I'm pretty partial to those Cadbury Cream Eggs. What do you do off of the field?
DB: I just hang out with my friends. We've got a little (Playstation 2) Madden challenge going on in the dorm. Me, Tarvaris, Pierre (Brown), Kyle Dickerson. We all just kinda hang out and play video games in the limited time that we have.
NS: I've been addicted to HotShots Golf 3 lately. I don't have the time or the money to play the real thing. If you could leave one thing in a time capsule, for people to open later and remember you, what would it be?
DB: I'd probably leave my Cotton Bowl watch. To me everything that we got at that Cotton Bowl just symbolizes how much heart that we had to come back from 0-3 (SEC) and to be able to fight back and go to a January 1 bowl.