State of the Hogs: New Man

Ramon Broadway is a captain and leader for this Arkansas defense. He isn't big, but he is the right size for head coach Bobby Petrino.

Ramon Broadway has been picked on, abused and accused during his time at Arkansas.

He's been picked on by SEC quarterbacks. Some would even say they abused him. Arkansas fans have accused him of being one of the many weak links to the defense.

Willy Robinson, in his third season as defensive coordinator, explained in a post-spring setting in May that one of Broadway's big problems was that he sometimes "peeked" at the quarterback and lost focus on the receiver. He said he also liked to "jump routes" in hopes of an interception. That'll get you beat deep, we all know.

It's kind of like an old fly fisher told me once. Some people look, others see.

Apparently, Ramon Broadway sees these days. He no longer just looks.

Bobby Petrino is careful about picking leaders. He wants them to be followers of the coaches first. If they both follow and repeat the message of the coaches, they can become leaders in his system.

Apparently, Broadway does that these days, too.

If you look into the huddle when the Arkansas team takes the field Saturday night, most will see Ryan Mallett. It's hard to miss him. The junior quarterback stands 6-7. He's a big man and will be in the middle of the action when the team takes the field or huddles up for any important message.

But if you look closely, you'll see the 5-9, 191-pound Broadway in the middle of that huddle. He's likely to be shouting instructions, giving the final thoughts from a captain's perspective. They are likely to be something closely similar to what Petrino told them in the team room minutes earlier, or perhaps days earlier from a key moment in two-a-days.

Broadway is following Petrino's every move. He hears every word. He doesn't just listen, he hears.

"Coach Petrino has become the father figure in my life," Broadway said. "He's the father I never had. He's taught me how to be a man. He's explained courage, work ethic and attitude to me. He's taught me to be a father, too. I've listened to him and I think what he's told me is exactly right both for what I need to do on the field and off the field."

Petrino sees what Broadway has become and beams with pride. As he talked to the throng at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Monday, Broadway was one of the players he mentioned as a key leader for the 2010 Razorbacks.

"He's not big in stature," Petrino said of Broadway. "But he's got a big heart."

Broadway said he had not read those remarks, but had been told of them a day or so later.

"He is a man that I want to win for, want to play my heart out for," he said. "He's done so much for me. He's made me into a new man."

Broadway found out he was going to be a captain just before the start of summer when he was called to Petrino's office for a conference.

"I thought I might have done something wrong," he said. "I didn't know what it could have been. I didn't think I'd done anything, but I was still a little worried when I was sitting in his front office waiting for him. Then, Ryan Mallett came in. I figured it might be good at that point. I didn't think Mallett was in trouble. I figured it might be good stuff."

Obviously, that was good stuff, but now Broadway has to play like a new man. He has to keep his eyes on the wideout and not "peek" at the quarterback early in routes.

"He's gotten much better with his technique," Robinson said. "I don't see him guess as much. If he relies on his technique, he can be an effective corner in this league. He's getting better."

Perhaps the abuse is over. Maybe the accusers will fall silent. Perhaps this Arkansas defense will make the big step it needs to make this football team a contender in the SEC West. If that's the case, it's probably because you can't pick on Ramon Broadway any longer.

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