Future NFLer doesn't want to be known as football player

How do you make lemonade out of lemons? That may seem impossible after the loss to Louisiana Monroe,  but I am going to give it a try.
Losing to Alabama every year since 2007 has been no fun and after the meltdown on Markham last week, not many are giving my Hogs much of a chance this year either.

This weekend I got to listen to Bill Vickery on the Sunday Buzz on 103.7 FM,  and he said the Hogs could not win the Sun Belt if they continued to play this badly. Humorously he suggested that our coaching staff consider Samurai conclusions, but I know he was just being silly as Bill usually is.

After the 34 to 31 loss to Louisiana Monroe, I told my 15-year-old son Wilson at least two good developments came from the upset of Arkansas.
First, maybe Alabama will overlook the Hogs. I sure would if I was a Tide fan. Secondly, now it appears I can possibly get tickets to the Alabama game!

I had promised Wilson several years ago that I was going to take him to see every SEC team play. Since we are season ticket holders in Little Rock we have seen the regular opponents in Little Rock such as Mississippi State and LSU, but we have to go to Fayetteville to see the rest of the teams.

Wilson's first SEC football game came in Fayetteville in 2001 against Auburn. The funny thing about that game was we had traveled the night before to Texarkana to watch the Bryant Hornets play against the Texarkana Razorbacks. I told my 5-year-old son we were cheering for the  Hornets who were dressed in the white shirts and blue pants and against the team with the red uniforms and the Hogs on the helmets.That next day I had to explain to him that we were now going to cheer against the blue and white team and for the red Hog team in the game in Fayetteville.

Through the years we have seen every team except Kentucky and Alabama. We will see Kentucky on Oct. 13, but we had no prospects of getting tickets for the Bama game until last Saturday night. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Four years ago we got to see Tim Tebow lead his Florida Gators into Fayetteville against the Hogs after falling the previous week in Gainesville to the Houston Nutt coached-Ole Miss Rebels. Actually Tebow's most famous moment came after that defeat when he made the famous speech that led to the path to Florida claiming the national championship later that year.

Tebow made me appreciate his talents that game against the Hogs since he seemed to convert on about a dozen key plays that day with  runs on third and fourth downs. I still think Darren McFadden deserved the Heisman Trophy more than Tebow, but I agree with Rick Schaffer who noted it couldn't have gone to a nicer gentleman.

That brings me to this week's opponent, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and their Outland trophy winner Barrett Jones. Jones is a certain NFL-first round pick in 2013 and teams have been double-teaming him since high school.

Sometimes you just know when there is a future NFL player in your presence. Back in the late 1990's the Bryant Hornets had to face the Camden Fairview Cardinals with their future NFL pro-bowler Shawn Andrews, and the Hornets had to double- and triple-team Andrews every play.

“I remember watching Shawn on film and he would just manhandle people from the nose guard spot, almost taking the snap from the quarterback each play,” Bryant coach Paul Calley said.

Shawn demonstrated on the high school field that he was destined for greatness. Of course, he later started as a freshman for the Arkansas Razorbacks and earned All-American honors in 2003. In the NFL he played in three pro-bowls while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles (2005-2007).

I have been following Barrett's football career since he was a sophomore in high school because of two reasons. He is from the high school I graduated from, and  not only did he play for Evangelical Christian School (ECS), but he also grew up at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis where I used to go to church too.

The second reason I have kept up with the Jones family is because of my parents' close friendship with Barrett's grandparents, Harry and Beth Smith, who were also members with my parents at Bellevue.

Barrett Jones reminds me of Tim Tebow. Jones noted, "I don't want to be known as a football player who happens to be a Christian, I want to be known as a Christian who happens to play football."

The Baptist Press reported in April of 2012:
Jones organized and led a team of 31 of his friends and family members on a mission trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua, during his spring break, March 11-16.

The team participated in several nightly revival services at Shalom Baptist Church in Jinotega and visited three public schools and an orphanage. At each location, they gave their personal testimonies, presented the Gospel story and interacted with the children by playing sports and games and simply reflecting God's love.

The 21-year-old Jones made his priorities in his testimony at the revival service at Shalom Baptist on March 13.

"Tonight, I want to talk to you a little bit about what I'm really passionate about," he told the crowd, "and that's not football -- it's Jesus Christ."

Wilson and I are hoping to get a chance to meet Barrett after the game. We know that football is a great game, but making differences in people's lives is even better.

I will be pulling for Barrett in the big game of life, but as a Hog fan I hope my Razorbacks give him a  Tebow-after-the-game-rallying-speech-moment like Ole Miss did in 2008 by defeating the Tide on Saturday.

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 Alexander.