Good things happen when Dedrick Poole has the ball. Over his three year career at Little Rock's Central high school, the 5-11, 180-pound tailback amassed 6,059 yards and found the endzone 66 times. Poole's gamebreaking ability attracted national powers such as Nebraska and Florida, but Dedrick's heart belonged to the Razorbacks.
Despite Arkansas' impressive talent and depth in the backfield, Razorback coaches know that they have to get Poole on the field and put the pigskin in his able hands. Head Hog Houston Nutt has been very creative utilizing his talented freshman's abilities. Dedrick has been a solid target, catching passes as a receiver and out of the backfield. He has been exciting running reverses and returning kicks.
Poole even completed a 25-yard pass to quarterback Matt Jones off of a reverse against Tennessee. The young man simply makes things happen, with speed, and deceptive power. But Dedrick's physical ability is not the only thing that transcends his tender age.
The first time that you talk to Poole you realize that he is mature beyond his years. Dedrick oozes intelligence and personality and he possesses a rare combination of confidence, humility, and charisma that make him a joy to talk to and a pleasure to be around. This week I took a few minutes to shoot the breeze with one of the Razorbacks' newest young guns, Dedrick Poole.
Nathan Striegler: You were the first Division I football signee from Central since 1988? How much does that mean to you?
Dedrick Poole: I took a lot of pride in that. I always loved Central and the coaching staff. I wanted to be one of those players to come out and get my picture up on that wall that they keep in the office. That was a great feeling.
NS: Houston Nutt was a Central graduate too. How much of an impact did that have on your decision?
DP: It kinda ties in. He came from the same program that I came from, and they haven't changed a bit. I know that with the discipline that he got then, he was going to expect the same thing from me when I got up here. I knew for a fact that he only recruited the top players, and he took me.
NS: Nebraska and Florida were among the schools recruiting you. How tough is it to say no to offers like that?
DP: I always loved the Razorbacks even when I was coming up. My father was always a big time Razorback fan and so was my stepfather. I used to watch the games so I always had that true love for this school right here. You see schools like Nebraska and Florida that win National Championships and of course you're going to give them a good look and see if you wanna go there. But when it all comes down to it, it's about love and where you're going to be happy at.
NS: I've heard the story about you calling the Hogs in your yard after the seven-overtime victory over Ole Miss last year.
DP: Yeah. Me and some of my boys did it. I was at this speech tournament with my school and I came back with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter. I got to see the rest of that and it was awesome to have some of your neighbors out there with you. That just made it feel that much better.
NS: Speech tournament?
DP: You just compete. You learn how to talk and you just compete with other students in stuff like poetry and debate. That's the kind of stuff that I like. I write a lot of poetry, but as far as debating, I really like to compete.
NS: Are you still planning on playing basketball?
DP: It's funny you said that because I was talking with my father about that the other night. We're just going to wait until the season is over with. If I don't have any injuries, there's a good chance that I'll give it a shot. If I'm injured and I need to rest then there's a good chance I won't play. So we'll just have see how we're doing after this season.
NS: Your birthday is December 18th. Do people pull that combined birthday/Christmas present gift stunt?
DP: Oh yeah. You know parents are always trying to find a cop out, with me having so many brothers. It was kinda like, "Well your Birthday is on the 18th, so we'll take you out to eat and you can get the rest of your presents on Christmas." It's tough as a kid, but you get over it.
NS: Did you realize that you have the highest pass efficiency rating on the team?
DP: I'm one-for-one.
NS: Talk about that pass to Matt.
DP: Well we've been working on that play for a long time. Of course, it didn't go the way coach drew it out, but it was successful. The only thing I remember is that end was not blocked and as Matt handed the ball to me he was telling me, "Here he comes." So I just tried to time it from the speed he was coming. I turned around and threw it to Matt and was hoping he was gonna score. The next time we run that, I bet he'll score.
NS: After playing wideout, you've returned to the backfield. How good does it feel to be back home?
DP: You really don't treasure what you have until you lose it. Quarterback and tailback were the only positions that I've played in my life. Trying to adjust to wideout and trying to learn everything at the speed it goes in college in just a month or two was kinda hard. We've got some great receivers like George, Sparky, Carlos Ousley, and of course Richard. He's a big play guy. They just saw that we have enough receivers, so they moved me back to make some plays in the backfield.
NS: How did it feel to get your hands on the ball the first time?
DP: I got my hands on the ball the first time in the South Florida game. That was on a reverse and the second one was on a pass from Matt. That's kinda crazy. The only pass that I've thrown was to Matt for 25 yards and I think the one he threw to me was 25 yards. It just felt great to be at home and have all those people cheering for you. It's got to be the greatest state, with the greatest fans in the world.
NS: Halloween is coming up. Do you have any big plans?
DP: I'm the kind of person who loves holidays. I went and got a pumpkin and carved it up. I got a bowl of candy. I just try to make it like when I was a kid and you looked forward to Halloween. I don't think I'll be dressed up in any kind of gear trying to be scary but I'm gonna try to celebrate the best way that I know how.
NS: What is the best costume you've ever had?
DP: Do you remember He-Man? I had these blue tights and I had my He-Man underwear on. My mom had these red curtains that she didn't use anymore so she just cut it up and made me a cape. Growing up we couldn't get those outfits. My little brother was the only one who got those. If mom had some spare money for something like that, she got it for my little brother.
NS: What will you do the first time you score?
DP: Afterwards I might get a celebration period so I hope coach Nutt understands. I hope it's a real big play too, so the fans all erupt even more.
NS: How much has your relationship with God meant in your life?
DP: My biological father is a pastor and my mom is a God-fearing woman and so is my grandmother, so we were always raised in the church. Just being up under them as well as my pastor made me grow as a person in general. Since I've been up here I've experienced different churches and different beliefs. I'm open-minded and I just try to be myself and live the right life that I'm supposed to live.
NS: In light of recent events, is it frustrating for players that the public only seems to pay attention to the few negative things that happen, and ignore all the positive contributions that players make to society?
DP: People like what sells. If that's what sells then that's what they're gonna run. If somebody graduates early and they're still playing football, put that in the paper. If you're gonna put something in there if they get in trouble, put the good stuff in there too. We're all brothers around here. If one falls, there's gonna be somebody there to pick you up, and it might just be 123 guys for that one