MEMPHIS - University of Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt was one of the thousands of Arkansans on hand at the Fed Ex Forum Saturday night to cheer on middleweight boxing champion Jermain Taylor.
Taylor, like Nutt a native of Little Rock, fought to a draw with Winky Wright to retain his title.
"I love the Razorbacks, I love Little Rock and I love Arkansas," Taylor said Friday. "Tell them that."
Of course, all three of those groups already know that and Nutt - who saw his first live boxing match - says there are plenty of reasons for the enthusiasm and support coming back.
"I just fell in love with this guy because of his attitude and his pride of wanting to be a Razorback, wearing it on his shirt and just showing so much love for our state and our program," Nutt said during a break in his football camp this week. "As you watch him train and study more about him, you see that he is real, a great person with great character. He's what you want your players and sons and daughters to be."
Taylor, 25-0 entering the Wright fight, came to speak to the Razorback football team shortly after winning the world title with the first of two victories over Bernard Hopkins.
"He was such an inspiration to our players and our coaching staff," Nutt said. "I appreciate his heart."
As expected, he was the topic of much conversation Friday night at Celebrities, a bar/restaurant on Beale Street co-owned by former Razorback and current PGA golfer John Daly.
Daly was on hand Friday night along with former Razorback quarterback Clint Stoerner, former UA basketball player Pat Bradley and a host of other Arkansas sports personalites and tons of Razorback fans.
"I just love the kid," Daly said of Taylor. "To me, he's got a great heart and is just as true a Razorback as any."
Nutt said that Taylor's name is being brought up by recruits a lot.
"They know who he is and they know he is from Arkansas," Nutt said. "That doesn't hurt at all."
Taylor was quoted earlier this week as saying that he wanted to be a Razorback of any kind no matter the sport, but his boxing skill led him in that direction.
Nutt says Taylor knows he is an honorary Razorback even if he has never played a game for the University of Arkansas.
"Arkansas has a lot of pride in itself and certainly our fans have adopted him and he is just building a lot of excitement and has a lot of people behind him," Nutt said. "What's amazing is that he has shown that same type of excitement for us at our games. He's pumping those fists, waving those arms and - in between signing autographs – calling those Hogs."
Taylor has come into his last few fights with a Razorback on his robe and the word Arkansas on the back of his boxing trunks.
Although UA officials nixed the idea of using the word Razorback in one his earlier fights in Little Rock, Nutt said that Taylor can do anything he wants as far as associating with the school and its logo as far as he is concerned.
"I didn't know anything about that first deal, but I hope he can put anything he wants on there," Nutt said. "I know there are a lot of policies and procedures with the trademark deal, but I know he has Arkansas on there and I love that. Just love it."
Photo courtesy of HBO
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