Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
No. 18 Arkansas at No. 19 South Carolina: ‘I’m a football player’
Stumon’s journey winds up at fullback
Arkansas’ Van Stumon has played several positions — on both sides of the ball — during his five years with the Razorbacks, but as a blocking fullback he’s an integral part of the offense.
FAYETTEVILLE Fifth year senior Van Stumon has played linebacker, fullback,tight end, defensive end, defensive tackle and fullback again during his Arkansas football career.
In a pinch, the Razorbacks might be able to use Stumon at tailback, though his career rushing stats are two carries for 4 yards.
“Van thinks he’s all-world,” Arkansas tailback Knile Davis said. “He feels like he can do anything.
“I think he can, though. Van is a good athlete. Period.”
Stumon, who played running back and linebacker at North Little Rock High School, smiled when asked about his journey around the Razorbacks’ depth chart that now finds him entrenched at fullback.
“If people want to know what position I play,” he said, “I tell them I’m a football player.”
Stumon’s primary role is to block, but he has caught two touchdown passes from Ryan Mallett - covering 2 yards against Missouri State last season and 7 yards against Auburn this season. Those are the only two receptions of Stumon’s college career.
“I like to feel like I’ve got pretty good hands,” Stumon said. “I can’t let Mallett down when he throws it to the fullback and he’s got all these good wideouts to throw it to.
“I’ve got to pick up my end of the bargain.”
Mallett said Stumon is one of his favorite teammates and is a big part of the offense.
“He loves to go in there and be physical. He loves to go hit people in the mouth,” Mallett said. “You give him a bone here and there and let him get a couple of touchdowns and keep him happy.”
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino said Stumon has a good understanding of the game, what it takes to win and willingly does whatever is asked of him.
“In his heart, he thinks he’s a runner, and he sacrifices that to block for us,” Petrino said. “And he does a really nice job of leading for us.”
Stumon’s most impressive game this season was Arkansas’ 38-24 victory over Ole Miss, when his blocking helped the Razorbacks rush for 197 yards, including 176 by Davis.
“There were three bricks or pancakes or knockdowns - or whatever you want to call them - where Van splattered them good,” Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton said.
Stumon played defensive tackle in 2008, then returned to fullback last season after Petrino suggested it would be a good move for him and the team.
Over the past two years, Stumon has trimmed down from 280 to 245 pounds.
“I think he likes that sleek skill person body better than that defensive line body,” Horton said with a laugh. “He’s able to move better.”
Stumon missed this season’s opener against Tennessee Tech serving a one-game suspension after being arrested in June and charged with driving while intoxicated.
“I just used it as motivation for when I got back on the field to go a little bit harder,” Stumon said. “I made a mistake, and I learned from it and dealt with it.”
Petrino said Stumon, who underwent shoulder surgery in the spring, has played better as this season has progressed.
“Early in the year, I think he may have been still favoring his shoulder a little bit,” Petrino said. “But now I think he’s 100 percent, ready to go.”
Stumon said he has to be ready to block whatever is in his path to protect the quarterback or clear a hole for the tailback.
“I just know I’ve got to pick up any trash that gets behind the line,” he said. “Anything that comes through, I know I’ve got to hit it.”
Seeing the team put up big offensive numbers, Stumon said, is a satisfying feeling.
“I do think I’ve found a home at fullback,” he said. “But I take a lot of pride in my versatility.”
Horton said Stumon always has been “a team-first guy” for the Razorbacks.
“He’s never moaned or whined about playing defense and then moving to tight end and moving to fullback,” Horton said. “He’s very popular among the players. He’s always got a good attitude. He’s been very good for this football team.
“He epitomizes what we want a Razorback to be in terms of work ethic and attitude.”
Sports, Pages 23 on 11/03/2010