To the tune of $220,000, Pat Cameron spoke up about the negativity that has swirled among some segments of Arkansas football fans over the last few months. The former Razorback walk-on deep snapper gave an endowed scholarship in the name of his former coach, Ken Hatfield, on Wednesday. In the process, he delivered his vote of confidence for current football coach Houston Nutt.
Cameron is a Little Rock native and a graduate of Little Rock Central. He now resides in Springdale. He's worked for Stephens Inc. for the last year and a half.
"I'm tired of the negativity towards our coach and our program," Cameron said. "Coach Nutt is a very good coach. Part of what I did was to speak out about that. The other part was to honor my coach, the man who gave me a chance to earn a scholarship."
Cameron said Hatfield "gave me a tremendous opportunity. I believe that a dreamer who is willing to do what it takes to earn his position on the team that he grew up loving is worth more than someone who is just playing his way through school. Every time I have been in front of Coach Hatfield he has encouraged me and lifted me up whether it was in a team setting or individual setting after I graduated. His name is synonymous with the heart and pride of Razorback football."
Cameron recalled that fans were also upset at Hatfield for style of play during his time with the Hogs despite winning back-to-back SWC titles and playing in the Cotton Bowl after both those seasons.
"You'd think people would be happy with a coach who won 76 percent of his games like Coach Hatfield," Cameron said. "I don't want to happen a second time what happened then and we lose a very good coach. I think Coach Nutt has done a good job and I think he has this team in position to do some great things next season. I think we are going to have a championship team and a Heisman Trophy winner. That's what people should be focusing on.
"I think there is some irony that I live in Springdale. I've heard the talk and it makes me want to spit and cuss when I hear them."
Cameron said the endowed scholarship would be for someone who grew up in Arkansas and he also said he hoped some consideration would be given to deep snappers. Nutt said there are several candidates on this year's team, including tight end Andrew Davie, tailback Hezekiah Smith and punter/placekicker Jeremy Davis. He said all are walk-ons hoping for scholarships. Nutt said how many signees in the most recent recruiting class are eligible will determine if those walk-ons get a scholarship. That won't be known until July, the coach said.
Hatfield said his staff picked Cameron as the deep snapper despite his lack of size and height in a spirited battle with eight other candidates.
"I believe he got the job because of his accuracy, consistency and velocity," Hatfield said. "It sure wasn't because of his size."
Cameron said he was a 6-0, 192-pounder when he served as the deep snapper. Of the other candidates, the next smallest was around 235 pounds. Cameron came out in his third year on campus at the urging of one of his high school buddies. He was the backup behind All-SWC center Mark Henry at Central.
"I never started in high school," Cameron said. "But I stayed on the team and worked at it. And, when I went to Coach Hatfield, he told me to come out for fourth quarter class in January. I made it through it. There were probably 40 or 50 walk-ons who came out that winter and I think I was one of two left at the end."
Hatfield said he was without words when Cameron took him to lunch a couple of weeks ago to present his idea of the endowed scholarship.
"I thought he just wanted to talk about old times since I had moved back to the area," Hatfield said. "When he told me, I didn't really know what to say. But I can tell you now that it's one of the most impressive things you can have a former player do, give a scholarship in your name. He is what being a Fighting Razorback is all about. That's the way he played. That's his spirit."
Hatfield said he never worried about Cameron's small size when he snapped for the Hogs. He said he knew they could win championships with Cameron as a snapper and did. He also was proud to be by Cameron's side as he spoke up for both his old coach and the current coach.
"I spoke at a Razorback Club in Ft. Smith a few weeks ago, and I tried to say the same things when it came time for the question and answer portion of the night," Hatfield said. "I wanted to tell them that it was time to come together as a program and as fans in support of this coach. He won 10 straight games last year. It was the first time it was done since 1989 when we did it. I think it was a remarkable accomplishment. They were SEC West champs. They finished ahead of LSU. I said all of those things and I believe them.
"I just think it's time to stop some of this stuff. It's time to come together as Razorbacks. Houston is a good coach. I liked what Patrick had to say today. I think it was a good and appropriate message."