State of the Hogs: Pat Jones

Almost all my time during Wednesday night's Arkansas football practice was spent with an old friend, former Oklahoma State head coach Pat Jones. He's retired from coaching at age 58 after spending the last 10 years in the NFL. He was head coach at OSU when Houston Nutt started his Division I coaching career with the Cowboys.

"I guess Larry Lacewell claimed that he had Houston first at ASU," Jones said. "Larry had just hired Houston, and I hired him away. Larry said I stole him. Well, it wasn't a hard steal."

Jones, a Little Rock native, also has coaching ties with Reggie Herring, Louis Campbell, James Shibest and Mike Markuson from the UA staff. All have coached under or with Jones.

"I've got a lot of personal investment in this bunch," Jones said.

Jones is living in mid-town Tulsa and doing a collection of radio shows. He'll do some game day stuff for Fox Sports along with Jackie Sherrill this fall. He's also set to do some Sunday night radio with Barry Switzer, the former Oklahoma head coach.

"I'm done coaching," Jones said. "I have all I need right now, three radio shows, and I'm doing a book with Barry Switzer."

Jones is an Arkansas graduate, and also served as an assistant at the UA in 1974 and 1975.

"I was a GA in 74, and was listed as the assistant defensive line coach in ‘75," Jones said. "That means you get your name in the media guide and you can be in the team picture."

It's hard to imagine Jones not coaching ball somewhere. I've known him since my junior high days. I was a football player at Pulaski Heights while he was coaching just over the hill at Forrest Heights and then later at Little Rock Hall High.

I can remember his days as an assistant at SMU. When he was back in town, he'd usually end up at my father's condo, sitting by the pool sharing football stories with OH. That's kinda what we did Wednesday night standing at the edge of the practice field as the Hogs worked.

Jones liked what he saw of the Arkansas squad, and what he saw of campus.

"I had not been back here since ‘87, I think," he said. "It's changed so much. It's beautiful, unbelievable really."

Nutt asked Jones to speak to the squad at the end of Wednesday night's practice. Nutt said his old junior high coach (at Forrest Heights) did it up right.

"He talked about leadership and caring for one another," Nutt said. "Great talk, and very much on target."

Jones said it was a reminder what Ray Lucas once told the Miami Dolphins when Jimmy Johnson asked players to speak up at a team meeting.

"Lucas had just joined the Dolphins as our backup quarterback," Jones said. "It was our first big squad meeting after Jimmy became coach. Jimmy wanted someone from each position to speak. Ray talked about being a leader.

"He stood up and no one really knew him much at the time. He'd just gotten to the Dolphins. Ray just said, ‘You guys, I want you to know, I got your back. You may not know it, but I'm going to be there when you need me. If everyone takes that attitude, we are going to win here. You have to look out for your teammate.'

"That's what I told this squad. You never know when something like that is going to help the team. You have to cover for each other. You have to get someone's back. You'll know when they need you. It may be on the field. It may be off the field. That's what team is all about."

Nutt and Jones talked about old times -- very old times -- after practice. Jones recalled going to Florida State to visit with Herring, then a graduate assistant.

"Reggie, we'd seen him as a player the previous year when OSU played at Tallahassee," Jones said. "Reggie had just finished playing, and Bobby Bowden let him coach the linebackers the day we were there because he said we needed to see him in action as a coach. Jimmy (Johnson) and I were looking for a linebacker coach.

"Reggie jumped in there to coach them and World War III commenced," Jones said. "We decided right then he was going to be a great coach. I'm telling you, from what I saw tonight, he's the same. World War III is still going off in his practices."

Then, Nutt took over. He was standing between Jones and another Little Rock man, Charles Ripley.

"These were my two junior high football coachesm -- my only two coaches -- at Forrest Heights in junior high," Nutt said, wth his arms around his two mentors. "There were 120 to 150 players out and they were the two coaches. They coached everything and they were great coaches."

Jones promised to return to the campus for more workouts and more games. He was disappointed night had fallen and he had not seen baseball's Baum Stadium or basketball's Walton Arena. He even wanted to go in Barnhill where the women's athletic department plays volleyball and gymnastics meets.

"I want to get over here a lot more," Jones said. "I know so many people. It was so good to see Harold Horton tonight at practice.

"And, I've got some land nearby, down around Sallisaw, just across the state line. I haven't an idea of what is even on it. It was in the family and I've not seen it. Hopefully, I've got some time with what I'm doing now to get around here more."

So what's he doing?

"I'm doing Tulsa radio and there is a large group of Arkansas fans there. We get a lot of calls on the Razorbacks. I am going to get back over here some more. I'm on 97.1 FM there, the Sports Animal. I think you can get it here."

Then, he got sentimental.

"This is an important place to me, all of this right here. I remember sitting on the grass north end zone watching Don Meredith play for SMU against the Razorbacks. Yeah, I'm old."

It was clear he liked what he saw of the Hogs.

"I like (Mitch) Mustain," Jones said. "He throws it pretty good. He's accurate. I like the way he moves. He isn't ready yet, but he reminds me of a Troy Aikman the way he sets himself and the way he releases it. He's a little thinner than I remember Troy, but that's who he reminds me of, especially the way he sets his lower body.

"Marcus Harrison, Jamaal Anderson, Freddie Fairchild ... those defensive guys look good. I like the way the defensive team looks. Of course, I really like Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Peyton is a big guy, but he's a lot more nimble than you think for that size. There are a LOT of good looking players on this squad. They play in the SEC and that's tough, tough, tough. But this is a good-looking squad. I'm coming back to see more of them.

"I like what Reggie is doing with the defense. Speed at end. Speed at tackle. Speed at linebacker. That's the way we always did it at Oklahoma State and what Jimmy did at Miami. You take an end and move him to tackle, like he did with Marcus Harrison. You take receivers and put them at defensive end, like they did with Jamaal Anderson and Anthony Brown. We always did that. Leslie O'Neal was an end in high school and we made him a tackle in college. Reggie is doing the same things. I like it.

"This is a good-looking squad. I've had a good time here today visiting with Houston and seeing everything. That weight facility, it's tremendous."

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