It’s 8:30 on a Monday night. I’m watching the Cowboys take on the Eagles. Tony Romo’s last two snaps: 1) Interception. 2) Fumble in the end zone that turns into a Philly TD. So why in the world am I still smiling? Why is this laptop I’m typing on not smashed into a million little pieces? Why have I not taken the remote and lodged it into the middle of my television screen? After all, I’m a lifelong fan of America’s Team (it’s not my fault…it’s genetic, I think!). Well the reason is because about 20 minutes ago, for the second day in a row, a former Arkansas Razorback scored big as a pro.
Right in the early moments of this big Monday Night Football game, Felix Jones returned a kickoff 90-something yards for a touchdown. By the way he’s playing in this one, and the way he played last week, I’m sure he’s got more fireworks to come on this night. And yesterday, Jones’ backfield running mate in the College Years had a day worthy of his #4 pick in the NFL Draft. Darren McFadden churned out 164 yards and a score for the Raiders in a win over their fiercest rival.
Everyone here in SEC country knew these two should succeed at the next level. Some even think that Jones may be better at the next level, even though he served as Run DMC’s backup for the Hogs. Only time will tell on that one. But time has already told that it’s been one fun, wild ride watching these two grow up. Talk to enough people here in the Natural State and you’ll find everyone’s got a claim to fame. They went to school with them. They played against them in High School. They saw them in a Wal-Mart parking lot one time…maybe. “Mr. Jones” by the Counting Crows is their favorite song of all time. Me? I went to school with McFadden’s sister. Makes me pretty cool, huh? Ok, maybe not.
In all silliness, there’s a little truth. And the truest part about all of this is the desire to have that claim. Like the few and the proud who knew Wilco before “Alt-Country” was even a category, or those that saw the real talent in Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp back in their “Gilbert Grape” days, or even Adam’s fascination with former-Brewer Matt LaPorta before the rest of us saw his name scroll across the bottom of our televisions as a player worthy of being traded for potential Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia. We love to know before everyone else knows. Sometimes, we even hate to share. Like that cringe you feel when you see a Home Depot commercial with a song from YOUR band (not to be confused with a Volkswagen ad, of course, those are still cool). I feel your pain there. I do.
But somewhere deep inside there’s a greater satisfaction in all of this. Right? In this case, with these two football players, I’m cool with everyone seeing what all the talk was about. Some of that comes back to Arkansas pride, of course, but the bigger joy is that I’ve been there for the whole process. As a Senior in college, I watched highlights from my desktop as a little known Freshman at Arkansas named Darren McFadden McRan for 1000 yards and 11 TDs. The next year at the Capital One Bowl, Jones put up 2 scores and 150 yards on only 14 carries (that’s 10.7 yards per carry!). And last year, as a Sports Anchor at a local TV station, I watched the pair combine for 300 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns against the former national champ LSU Tigers.
And last, but not least, I was there when the following photo leaked out. The photo that let everyone know that these two soon-to-be multi-millionaires were down-to-earth enough to dress up as Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble for Halloween in college. Maybe I’ver never met these guys. Maybe you’ve never even seen YOUR band live. But something inside of us knows them better than anyone else. And that’s what makes it so special.