State of the Hogs: Tim Horton

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Sadly, writing letters is a lost art. Few take the time to write a note, put it in an envelope, apply a stamp and put it in the mail box.

I should write more notes. I had a great example. My father wrote thousands of letters in his 50 years as a journalist. As I travel the state to speak at functions I still have many tell me of a framed letter they have on their wall from my father. They treasure it, perhaps because it came from someone they admired or is famous in their eyes.

We are in an era when e-mail or cell phone calls are much easier than writing a note. But they aren't the same. They don't reveal someone the way a personal note does. (And, just for the record, I do not count it as communication when someone forwards me a joke or chain request via e-mail.)

The newest Arkansas assistant football coach doesn't need any instruction on any of this. Tim Horton's trademark is that he writes and sends personal notes, cards and letters. He keeps the U.S. Postal Service busy. I'm guessing Horton buys stamps by the roll.

Not only is that a great sign of character, it's also a great marketing tool, possibly the best.

It served Horton well when Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt needed to replace Danny Nutt as running backs coach earlier this month. The story goes that Nutt asked offensive coordinator David Lee to come back the next day with a recommendation.

Lee hedged a bit the next day, putting it back on Nutt. Who, Lee asked, was the head coach considering?

Nutt said he had someone in mind. It was the fellow who had been writing him all of those letters the last 15 years.

All of that aside, it says a lot about Tim Horton that Nutt would pick him to coach his best players. Just think about it, Horton is the man he picked to replace his brother as the man entrusted to coach Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis and Michael Smith.

The thing that Nutt had to know is that any of those would do well to turn out just like Tim Horton. That's what they are saying everywhere Horton has ever been.

I got a call from my college roommate this week, a dentist in Conway. He summed it up best when he said, "They couldn't have hired a finer person than Tim Horton. I know his daddy and I know they don't come any better than either one of them."

That is from a man, Dr. Leo Crafton III, who introduced me to my wife so it's clear that I value his opinion. He watched Tim Horton play high school football and run track at Conway High. He also watched his father coach at the University of Central Arkansas.

The Hortons lived acoss the street from my oldest brother years ago. Butch Henry was the sports information director and Harold was an assistant for Frank Broyles.

"My son was three years younger than Tim," Butch said. "Tim was pretty much his big brother. I have to say that my son learned his manners from Tim. We've followed his career and everywhere he's been those who have been around rave about Tim.

"We've got to see him coach and he's never changed. Everyone who is around him always wants to brag on him. Pure class, that's what they say." Writing letters is part of that. But it's not all of it. Those people always added one thing, "Oh, yes, Tim can coach and he's great in a home on a recruiting visit."

You can gauge a man by the way he raises his family. Those that know Tim Horton give him high marks there, too. None of that surprises me.

He'll do well at Arkansas. As sad as I was to find out on vacation that Danny Nutt was stepping down, I was just as excited to know there was a top replacement ready to take his place.

I have a question for Tim Horton, but I doubt he'll answer it. He has too much class. I want to know who returned all of those letters — and who did not. I have to admit I've gotten some Tim Horton letters. I'm not telling how many times I wrote back.

Tim Horton isn't one to give away that kind of information. I just wish I held on to some of his notes. Sometime in the future I'd want to walk up to his son and tell him that I've got one of his dad's letters and it's framed and hanging on my wall.

I've got this feeling that Tim Horton is going to make all of those letters famous.

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