NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — This was a heck of a way to start a holiday weekend.
As the Razorback Marching Band lived up to its name — marching from the Junction Bridge to Dickey-Stephens Field — there was a special electricity along the Arkansas River.
For a non-conference season opener, it certainly feels like the heart of football season already.
The week-long pep rally for the Razorbacks, tagged RazorRock Rally, ended with the appearance of the band, cheerleaders and mascots. Maybe it was getting to ride along to the event on top of Tusk II’s trailer with the pep squad. Maybe it was a picture perfect evening with Dave Van Horn throwing out the first pitch.
Even Arkansas Travelers legend Bill Valentine came out to the game, meeting Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long in the Travs press box.
The cynical might say it was just another pep rally, just another attempt to gin up interest in the team. All the cliches in play — the former players from three decades, the university chancellor, the band, the live mascot, the live TV shots.
Far from it. There’s an emotion in what Clint Stoerner, Marcus Elliott and Kevin Scanlon said that you can’t fake. When they talk about this year’s team, it has the admiration of those who have been there and done that toward those who get to continue to play the game they once owned.
When Stoerner — ironically, the player that Ryan Mallett said he pretended he was in the backyard as a kid — says he’s looking forward to the 6-7 sophomore breaking his records, you can sense the honor among warriors.
When Elliott urges the crowd to rattle the neighborhood houses surrounding War Memorial Stadium, just like they did when he was a youngster living in the shadow of the stadium, you can sense his pride as a Little Rock native about the event.
Tomorrow belongs to the next generation of Razorbacks, but tonight, all generations of Razorbacks came together to celebrate all things Razorback.
Can’t wait for tomorrow.
QUICK BLOG SIDE NOTES
Remember, we will have the blog tomorrow from WMS, but the split of Twitter feeds is new. Game highlights will be on the main department feed, along with all other sports. The high detail and high volume of Tweets will be on our new game day only feed @RazorbackRoad.
And, as the Razorback Navy assembles for the first time on the Arkansas River, let me add a quick caution. Some may scoff that our assembly of ships doesn’t match that of other SEC navies.
I want to remind you, our navy includes an attack submarine. Literally. The USS Razorback served during the Second World War, then years of Cold War service before being sold by the US to Turkey. The Razorback was purchased as salvage and restored by the city of North Little Rock, making it perhaps the only privately owned former naval vessal on display in the US.
This trip I didn’t get into town early enough to visit the Razorback, but it’s well worth the tour. The ship is maintained by dedicated volunteers and is in immaculate shape.
So, keep in mind, your navy might be bigger now, but our navy can sink yours.
The USS Razorback is moored on the north shore of the Arkansas River as the centerpiece of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum.