FAYETTEVILLE — Sometimes, we forget.
A lot of things have happened since the last time the University of Arkansas football team hosted Fan Day.
New coach. New players. Even, a new athletic director.
On this sunny Saturday afternoon, the 2008 edition of the Razorbacks sat inside the Walker Pavilion signing autographs.
Not 24 hours earlier, the same team went through the paces on the same indoor practice field. All business.
Today, it’s all smiles for the fans, taking pictures and answering questions.
Routine looking, really. Change the colors and jerseys and it could be any team hosting a meet and greet.
Until he broke for the end zone.
The toddler was probably two, maybe three. Certainly not the “5” he wore on his jersey for the former two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, now Oakland Raider, Darren McFadden.
His plastic toy Razorback helmet was in a wobbling orbit across his face, far too large for his head, but way too small for his dreams.
“Touchdown ARKANSAS,” he squealed as he ran into the end zone. The full-size football he was using to collect the signatures of his heroes was thrown to the ground in that faulting, two-handed way that youngsters often do things.
His father, perhaps grandfather, ambled along, urging the future tailback, or wide receiver, or linebacker to hurry back into the autograph line. Off they went.
Here was the essence of Arkansas athletics.
This child experienced the sheer joy of running into that green end zone emblazoned with the huge white letters with cardinal outlines: RAZORBACKS.
He’s too young to remember Paul Eells, but the moment he crossed the final yard marker he knew exactly what he was suppose to say.
The hopes and dreams of this state have always belonged to this team. The players change. The coaches change. The uniforms change. The tradition that is Razorback football remains.
Today’s event was for that future Razorback, whether 16 years from now he’s an offensive tackle or a sousaphone player. And for the adults.
They all came to meet the team and be close to their heroes. Most brought the traditional items – footballs, helmets, Hog Hats and visors. Some had their homemade banners, pennants and signs. One fan brought a wooden Razorback logo that no doubt he’d lovingly crafted in his garage.
Sometimes, the grown ups forget what it’s all about. The next time that happens, I’ll think back and remember today’s No. 5. I wish I had gotten his name for this story. In the end, who that littlest Razorback was just wasn’t that significant.
But he knows what is really important.