Sully Says: Nuttin' But Fun
How was he treated? Did he take questions?
Just two of the questions I was hit with after returning from the Little Rock Touchdown Club's Monday meeting, featuring former Razorback head coach Houston Nutt. What some thought would be an awkward meeting turned out to be a lot like Houston's first two years at Arkansas.
For one hour on Monday, it was "Nuttin' but Fun."
We all know how well Houston's Hogs played at War Memorial. Well, this was like a Little Rock game for the former Central High phenom.
The F.O.H.D's...Friends of Houston Dale were everywhere.
Almer Lee, Bo Busby, Leotis Harris, Ken Turner, Clint Stoerner, Anthony Lucas, Danny & Dennis Nutt and his mom, Emogene, were part of a bigger then expected crowd at what turned out to be a jam-packed Embassy suites.
He set the gameplan and made all the calls.
He took us on a very entertaining 50 minute journey. He moved enthusiastically from his childhood days playing pickup games at the Arkansas School For The Deaf to his days as Razorback Head Coach. In one speech, he dropped more names than I do in a season's worth of Friday Night Touchdowns.
He also played at Oklahoma St. and coached at Murray St., Boise St. and Ole Miss, but on this day, it was all about the Hogs.
"It was 9:43 on a Sunday night," Nutt recalled when Frank Broyles offered him his dream job. He ended by saying that he felt "blessed" to be Razorback Head Coach for 10 seasons.
We all remember the ugly details of Houston's final days in Fayetteville, but many have forgotten what he accomplished as Head Hog.
He restored the passion in Razorback football.
1997 was a sad time for Razorback football. Danny Ford's Hogs went 4-7 for the second straight year. Passion for the program had dipped an all-time low. I can remember one Little Rock home game when Coach Horton asked me how many of my "Little Heroes" wanted to go see the Hogs play. The next Saturday, a few thousand young Hog fans filled the end zone seats at War Memorial.
In his early years, Houston's Coaches' show rivaled Oprah in the ratings race, and our new late night sports show, "Sportsweek," became Arkansas' highest rated sports show. Good or bad, he did wonders for the sports talk business.
He led the Hogs to some great wins.1998: 42-6 over 22nd ranked Alabama1999: Revenge game against Tennessee (Stoerner to Lucas) & 27-6 win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl2000: Ended the regular season with wins over ranked Mississippi St. and LSU teams2001: 7-overtime win at Ole Miss & knocked off ranked South Carolina and Auburn teams2002: "The Miracle on Markham"2003: Win over 5th ranked Longhorns in Austin2006: Wins over #22 Alabama and #2 Auburn2007: His final game - a 50-48 win over eventual National Champion, LSU.
I could go into all the head scratching losses and the drama, but this was a day to celebrate the return of a hometown sports hero; the second winningest coach in Razorback Football history: Houston Dale Nutt.