We're all scrambling to learn more about Bret Bielema. But what does Bret Bielema need to learn about Arkansas and the Razorbacks?
Congratulations! Welcome to Fayetteville, The Ozarks, the State of Arkansas, and The South! If you have any sense whatsoever, you've already recognized what a special place you have selected to chase your dream, even if you cannot quite yet quantify just why it's so extraordinary.
Fortunately for you, I have graciously taken on the task of outlining just what you should familiarize yourself with when it comes to being a Razorback and an Arkansan. Take the following directives to heart, and there is little doubt they will take you as far as you'd like to go.
1. Learn your state. Arkansas is a small state with a rich history of talented football players. Every school is capable of producing great Razorbacks, and a good many have, but some stand out more than others. Soon, this week, today, RIGHT NOW, get out a map of the Natural State. Now find Warren, home of the Lumberjacks. And Camden, home of the Camden Fairview Cardinals. Find El Dorado, home of the Wildcats. Greenwood, home of the Bulldogs. Monticello, home of the Billies. Texarkana, home of the (other) Razorbacks. While you're at it, draw a circle around Little Rock and a circle around the northwest corner of the state. Lots of talent here, too. It's very popular to say that Arkansas doesn't produce enough talent to fill an SEC roster, and that may be true, but it DOES produce exceptional talent within its borders. Lock that talent up. Lock it up, every single time, and the bounty from this state alone can and will provide the backbone of a highly successful football program.
2. Learn your neighbors. Arkansas is a small state with an unusual collection of extremely successful individuals sharing the common thread of Razorback fandom along with the rest of the entire state. Big money and big power, but a small playground to wield it in. Learn about all of the individuals signing those big checks, and do your best to keep all of them happy. Hint: It's a lot more than than the Waltons and Wal-Mart. It's the Waltons and the Tysons and the Hunts and the Stephens and the Fords. Oh yes, and the Joneses. Learn about the rest of us, too. The Wooldridges. The Harpers. And everyone else. The checks that we cut may have far fewer zeros, but our voices create just as much noise inside Razorback Stadium. Learn about your fans, and the state will be yours.
3. Learn your history. Arkansas is a small state, but it boasts a wonderful tradition of success and fanatical support. Learn as much as you possibly can, and embrace it. Learn about the Powder River Play from Buddy Bob Benson to Preston Carpenter in 1954. Learn about Roland Sales and beating the snot out of Oklahoma in the 1978 Orange Bowl. Learn that even 20 years after leaving their arrogant asses, we still hate Texas. Learn about Frank and Lou and Kenny. About the 25 Little Pigs and The Great Shootout. About Miracles on Markham, Stoernovers, and The Citadel. About cursing Reggie Fish and slowing down Andre Ware. An entire state walks around carrying the same badges and the same scars. Learn about them. It's who you are now.
I was not at all sure about you when I first heard the news, Coach Bielema. After a little thought and some research, however, I am confident that you will be a great fit as the head coach of the Razorbacks. Instead of bringing someone in to reconstruct the Razorback program into something new, Jeff Long found the person to make sure the Razorbacks excel at being what they've always been. Tough as hell, and afraid of nobody.
So, once more, welcome to Arkansas and welcome to the Razorbacks. We're happy to have you here, and are all very excited to find out more and more about what you believe in and what makes you tick. Hopefully, you share the same curiosity about the fan base that you now lead. The more you learn about us, the more you'll understand that maybe the unreasonable expectations the rest of the nation rolls their eyes about aren't so unreasonable after all.
Woo Pig Sooie,
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.