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Hogs fans have reason to get excited

May 1, 2013

There is a lot of excitement for Coach Bret Bielema's Razorback football team and that was demonstrated last Saturday with over 51,000 fans attending the Red-White football game in Fayetteville.  I saw that same enthusiasm in Benton on March 27, 2013, when Coach Bielema spoke at the Saline County Razorback Club Fish Fry in front of 600 die-hard fans. 
I have been attending the Razorback Fish Fry for over 20 years now. In fact my kids and I have enjoyed meeting the coaches that come and speak to this large Razorback Club. I first heard about this fish fry over 30 years ago when my future father-in-law Tom Sawyer told me that Lou Holtz came to the Fish Fry, and wouldn't eat the fish, but brought his own chicken.
The event this year was special for me because I got to bring my 6-year old grandson Luke. When we walked in the door we  put our name on the back of our ticket because several door prizes would be given away.
Politicians were there in full force. After we got our food we walked in and then waved to our state senator Jeremy Hutchinson who was on the air with Grant Merrill on the "Sports Night Radio Show" on KEWI 920 AM in Benton. 
On the stage we heard Shane Broadway call out on the loud speaker, "Luke Hatcher is the winner of the Razorback football."  We then went on the stage and got the  football and as we were leaving the stage we noticed Coach Brett Bielema at a table signing shirts and footballs with his name and "1-0." 
I wondered why he put "1-0" with each signature and later Bielema explained to the crowd, "When you take on a football season, if you try to jump to the end, try to jump to a national championship, try to jump to an SEC championship you're never gonna get to where you want to be. It carries over to what I tell our kids. If we let today's opportunities get behind us and don't capture everything we can, we let a day go by."
I greeted Coach Bielema and then said, "We are thrilled to meet you today and with me I have my neighbor Darrel Gentry and my grandson Luke Hatcher. This year Luke got to go to his first Hog football game in Little Rock against Ole Miss and then he attended the LSU game in Fayetteville. However, we lost both games at the very end. Recently Luke told me that he had bad luck since the Razorbacks always seem to lose barely when he goes to their football games."
Coach Bielema looked straight at Luke and said, "Luke we are going to work hard to change that this year!!"
I felt good about what Coach Bielema said to Luke because I know how hard the coach will work to make our Razorbacks better. Then it occurred to me later that maybe when he said he was going to change things this year that he was going to ban the bad luck Hatcher kid from coming to Razorback games this year? I have written before about how the "Hatcher Curse" started when I got my kids' pictures with Jack Crowe at the 1992 Saline County Razorback Club Fish Fry just days before the first game in 1992. In that first game the Razorbacks were upset by Citadel when a late fourth quarter fumble was returned for the winning score against the Hogs. Jack Crowe was fired the next day by Frank Broyles. 
Hopefully things will go better for Coach Bielema's time in Arkansas. We have a lot of pride in our football here in Arkansas and especially in Saline County. Several years in a row we have had over 20,000 fans attend the Salt Bowl game between the Benton Panthers and the Bryant Hornets. 
I believe Coach Bielema has us on the right track now. He did a great job of recruiting some blue-chip recruits such as Alex Collins and Hunter Henry. Collins' mother tried hard to get him to play for the local Miami Hurricane and the Collins' recruitment saga made national news on national signing day after Collins' mother grabbed the paperwork and ran out the door!!! However, cooler heads prevailed and Collins signed the next day.
Bielema mentioned that Henry was getting a lot of attention from all the top programs, and Nick Sabin of Alabama made a special last-minute trip to Little Rock to visit with Henry, but Bielema made it a top priority to get to Little Rock to visit with the Henry family. Coach Bielema pointed out that he knew it was a good sign when he discovered that Hunter's father was former Razorback football star Mark Henry. Actually Mark is the pastor  of Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock where my family has been members for years. Coach Bielema said he was thrilled to have a talented player such as Hunter Henry, but even better is the fact that Hunter is standup type of guy with real character. 
We enjoyed the Saline County Razorback Club Fish Fry and evidently the national press did too. USA TODAY ran a story on April 1, 2013, on several quotes from Coach Bielema concerning his lofty goals. Probably the most provocative quote with this one from Coach Bielema: "The reason the SEC is talked about all the time is one team, because of their dominance. But I didn't come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama," 
I don't have a problem with this quote though. I want a coach to have high goals. Are we supposed to be happy with second place?

Everette Hatcher is a regular contributor to The Saline Courier. He is the fourth generation in his family to work in the broom manufacturing business. Everette and his wife Jill have four children and live in Shannon Hills.

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