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Bill’s Bowl Blog: Finding Hog Fans

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Bill’s Bowl Blog: Finding Hog Fans

2:45 p.m. — As you keep up with the Razorbacks, remember to check the Bowl Central page. It’s pretty obvious to find with big bar across the main front page (look to the right of the promo for our basketball games today and tomorrow), or you can just jump here.

Among the things you will find on the Bowl Central page — direct links to each of my Bill’s Bowl Blogs, a link for media (and fans) to our full, unedited coverage of the press conferences and Wesley’s daily photo albums. My piddling iPhone quick pics that you’re also getting through @ArkRazorbacks really don’t compare to Wesley’s shots. We’ve broken them down day by day, and he’s got great stuff not only on practice but the other events as well. Check them out.

2:30 p.m. — That’s all for now. Tomorrow continues game week practice, a Liberty Bowl press conference with the coordinators and selected players and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Rodeo tomorrow night.

2:15 p.m. — With the evening open, the RazorVision crew is on the hunt for new BBQ. Details reported tomorrow. In the meantime, do not forget the Razorback women’s basketball team reopens Walton Arena after the holidays by facing Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. Also, the Razorback men head to Little Rock this evening to prepare for tomorrow’s game at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena against Baylor — that’s an 8 p.m. start on ESPN.

2:00 p.m. — This afternoon is open as far as bowl events are concerned. No additional press conferences or required events. Coach Petrino noted to the media that curfew begins moving back today (11 p.m. for tonight) and that by New Year’s Eve he’ll have the team "locked down". Sounds harsh in type, but it was delivered as more of a matter of fact line with a bit of a laugh.

12:15 p.m. — Shoot the stand-ups for the RazorVision daily package and back to the hotel. Football support crew packs up the practice equipment in anticipation of tomorrow’s shift.

12:00 p.m. — Coach Petrino sits down to field questions. Confirms the rumor circulating among the media that Arkansas is changing practice sites. Razorbacks will go at the same time tomorrow, and utilize the Rhodes facilities for dressing, training room and weight room but will bus over to a Memphis high school to get back onto a field turf-type of surface. Rain or snow in the forecast for Memphis tomorrow, and footing is the concern. Plus, Liberty Bowl has a similar artificial turf to Reynolds Razorback Stadium, and Arkansas has worked out on the Lynx’s grass fields for two days. We’ll have full video of his and Jerico’s presser today, plus a package on the full day with highlights and bits from the FCA breakfast.

11:45 a.m. — As is the case during bowl week, the media contingent grows today — about double the number of cameras and reporters when Jerico Nelson sits down to lead things off. Confirms the cold isn’t as bad for the players as those of us standing on the sidelines think. When asked about the tickete sales, Nelson comments the team is excited about it because it shows how much the fans are behind them. Closes out talking about how the team is focused on starting a new bowl tradition at Arkansas in reference to questions about UA’s winless streak at Liberty.

10:30 a.m. — After getting the multbox, backdrop and lighting set today, there’s extra time with the full practice today. Media begins to play some informal pickup. One station quick to let everyone know the older staff just took out the younger staff. Commercial Appeal columnist Ron Higgins is bouncing in three-pointers as a trick shot.

9:47 a.m. — See Officer Montgomery again, and he’s pleased — but I did make one mistake, his place is on Lake Hamilton rather than in the HSV proper. We’ll fix that, ASAP.

9:45 a.m. — Media relations folks begin to let the assembled media photographers know the open 15 minutes for shooting has ended. Overhear one media person earnestly say "Thank you" — as in, thank heavens we can all go inside now.

9:30 a.m. — The team gets onto the natural grass here at Rhodes a little early today for stretch and warm-up. This will be a full practice day like any other game week Tuesday.

9:10 a.m. — Run into Officer Montgomery, who’s not had a chance to see the blog yet today, but said several of his friends have told him about it. See him a few minutes later on his cell phone — his wife is reading the story to him.

9:00 a.m. — Yesterday was cold. Today, it’s brutal. With the mercury hiding at the bottom of the bulb around 30, the weather is rough on those standing around the edges. It doesn’t seem to bother the players — as is almost always the case. Once you get moving, it’s not cold.

8:30 a.m. — Time to pack up and head back to mid-town for practice at Rhodes.

8:00 a.m. — Hatfield closes with what is probably an old standard in the FCA world, describing the first team as having 12 players, but one quit leaving 11 (the hanging reference to football) and how they had to be utility players that went both ways back in those days. His summation was that persistance and diligance prevails, and while teamwork is vital, each person has to work and battle as if the whole of the enterprise — from football to business to faith — depended on each individual’s effort.

7:45 a.m. — After presentation of a local FCA award, Hatfield begins his speech. He touches on the special place Memphis had for a youngster in Helena and how he met his wife, Sandy, while flying into Memphis as an assistant coach. Hatfield adds a couple of nice stories (no two snowflakes the same — and we had them in Fayetteville recently — and neither are two people the same, each with a unique DNA from God; discusses the ties between the Liberty Bowl in the military and the military and college football). One I’d not heard before was his experience as a youngster sent "by a group of folks like you" to the national FCA football camp in Colorado "back when there was just one camp." He recalled this NFL head coach of five years that had a losing career record thus far — "you’d never see that today" — spoke to the campers that in his opinion, the most important thing in successful NFL players was character. Hatfield later learns that coach’s name was Tom Landry. "He went on to a pretty good career," Hatfield deadpans.

7:30 a.m. — Kyle Rote, Jr., is the master of ceremonies for today’s breakfast, and he has an interview on stage with Razorback deep snapper Rhett Richardson about his faith, his life growing up as the pastor’s child — or as Rhett said, a "PK" (preacher’s kid) — and how his time as the Arkansas snapper evolved.

7:20 a.m. — A quick look at the dias shows a heavy Razorback connection with athletic director Jeff Long as one of the guests of honor along with ECU AD Terry Holland, and the main speaker for the event is former Razorback head coach Ken Hatfield. That’s two former football coach connections for the week when you add in Skip Holtz’s dad. The teams are watching the highlight videos on each squad provided by the schools.

7:15 a.m. — Out on the eastern edge of Memphis again this morning, this time for the FCA breakfast. It is the 30th edition of the FCA event, here at the 51st edition of the Liberty Bowl.

This is Bobby Montgomery, a 25-year veteran of the Memphis Police Department. Officer Montgomery has made all 12 Liberty Bowls as an escort motor, and this year, he is set for retirement.

Not before getting to fulfill a dream. He’s escorting the Arkansas Razorbacks official buses around his home town.

Well, "home" town as Montgomery also owns land on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, where his wife is a native. Wearing his Razorback cap at practice on Monday, he was more than excited.

"You’re with ArkansasRazorbacks.com? That’s one of my top favorites on my browser," he said.

We couldn’t resist a fan.

Montgomery has been Bobby Petrino’s escort motor when the Razorback head coach brought Louisville to the Liberty Bowl. He’s even been the motor patrol when it was John L. Smith.

We chatted with Montgomery, who admitted to driving some of his fellow officers crazy with his Razorback support. One of his fellow officers simply nodded in the background.

He told us how he’s been at the Miracle on Markham, he’s seen Seventh Heaven — the 7 OT game at Ole Miss. He told us a great story about that LSU game, warning his wife she’d better start loading the car because they were headed for Little Rock — without tickets but with a burning desire to see the game.

"I stayed for every minute, and got to see Jones to Birmingham," he recalled.

But now, to go out leading the Razorbacks around Memphis.

"Couldn’t ask for more — my 12th Liberty Bowl, my 25th year and retiring with the Razorbacks at the Liberty Bowl," he said.

So if you’re in town this week and you see the team buses rolling toward practice or a bowl event, give the motorcycle police a nod and a wave. But don’t try to Call the Hogs — we wouldn’t want Montgomery taking his gloves off the handlebars.

Officer Montgomery’s ride parked near the Razorback buses Monday at Rhodes College

6:30 a.m. — Today is an early, early start to get over to the FCA breakfast, then on to practice at Rhodes. I’m pre-posting the story about our head Hog on his Hawg that’s escorting the team around Memphis.



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