State of the Hogs: Road Trip

Junction City trip one of highlights in research for the the March issue of Hawgs Illustrated. Byran Jones and Alan Turner earned high marks from Dragon fans.

Putting together the annual recruiting special at Hawgs Illustrated is a highlight for our staff. It's our chance to really zoom in on the new Arkansas football signees. The visits with their high school coaches usually produce intimate details on the players. It's a great start for getting to know the players we'll be watching the next four or five seasons.

The 2010 March issue is out with all of the usual capsules on each new player, but there was a special highlight: a road trip to Junction City where the Hawgs Illustrated staff (photographer Marc Henning, reporter Matt Jones and myself) spent the afternoon with signees Byran Jones and Alan Turner, along with coaches, players, administrators and teachers at Junction City High School. We left Dudley Dawson, our ace recruiting editor, at home to grind on the 25 capsules of the entire class, a job all by itself. He did wonderful work. Plus, he doesn't like my driving.

What a day. What a long day. It's more than five hours driving time and that doesn't count a stop in El Dorado for barbecue and then dinner in Conway on the way home.

I didn't see any food stops in Junction City, population 721. Rest assured, though, Mr. Jones has been eating. There's no fat on that big frame, but he's all of 310.

The pictures are outstanding. Henning captured some awesome digital images in Junction City, including the big sign that says "Welcome to Arkansas, The Natural state" just a few yards in front of the stadium where Class 2A football is played at its best in this state. There are also images of Jones and Turner in front of a large number of state championship trophies. They are winning football, basketball, weightlifting and other state titles in Junction City these days. Oh, the Dragons are state champs in cheerleading, too.

There was quite a fuss about these two Dragons during the recruiting process. They didn't tell everyone they were going to be Razorbacks until signing day, but there were many in town with a good idea during the stretch drive. The Hogs were the clear favorite in town all the way, as long as LSU wasn't in the picture.

See, LSU is in the picture in Junction City. There are about as many Tiger fans in this border town as Razorbacks. That's because much of the local television comes from Shreveport and Monroe.

However, there are many converts because of Jones and Turner. Some of the teachers at the school, raised in Louisiana as LSU fans, are buying Razorback gear and learning to call the Hogs.

All of that is detailed in this issue of Hawgs Illustrated, available statewide in Walmart stores and other outlets.

There are other fun stories. Springdale Har-Ber junior offensive tackle Brey Cook, perhaps the next big thing on the recruiting front, gives his favorites, although a visit to Alabama in the days since our publication might have the Crimson Tide in the mix, too.

In keeping with the recruiting theme, our Where Are They Now feature asks Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, to review how he was recruited to Arkansas. A member of the 1964 national title team at Arkansas, Jones recalls the days on the freshman floor when Barry Switzer was the resident graduate assistant on one end and Fred Akers on the other.

Recruiting wasn't such a complex situation in those days, Jones confirms. He credited one of his older high school teammates, Billy Joe Moody, for blazing the way at Arkansas and keeping the communication lines open. Moody recalled some boxing matches with Jones growing up. Frank Broyles and Switzer filled in some of the gaps in this story, too.

It's fun to walk back in Razorback time, but just as delightful to find someone in Junction City ready to tell a story about a player who might be instrumental in shaping the future at Arkansas. It's a fun issue. You'll love stories of Byran Jones as a 225-pound third grader.

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