Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Lunney more than a Hog tie
Barry Lunney Jr. spent eight seasons as offensive coordinator at Bentonville High School.
FAYETTEVILLE Barry Lunney Jr. understands his background as a successful Arkansas quarterback helped him get an interview with Coach Bret Bielema, but he’s planning to be more than simply a former player on the staff at what he calls “an exciting time” in Razorbacks football history.
BARRY LUNNEY JR. FILE
Position: Tight Ends Coach, Arkansas
Hometown: Fort Smith (Southside)
Previously: Offensive Coordinator, Bentonville High School
Notable: His father, Barry Lunney Sr., is one of the state's most successful high school football coaches with 228 career wins, six state championships and three state runner-up finishes.
“That may have gotten my foot in the door, but I can assure you of this, in the interview and when I was on the grease board with Coach [Jim] Chaney, that me playing here or not playing here didn’t help me a whole lot.”
Lunney said he thinks a combination of factors, like his success with the powerful Bentonville High School program the past eight years and his “ability to communicate and develop relationships and coach football” led to his selection as tight ends coach by Bielema.
Lunney, 38, said landing a job at his alma mater fulfilled “a very large dream of mine” to come back and coach at Arkansas. He is the only football assistant with Arkansas roots and a Razorback pedigree.
“I don’t feel a sense of like I am just the ‘Arkansas’ guy,” Lunney said. “Like I told Coach Bielema, I may be that guy, but my No. 1 priority is that I’m going to be a Bret Bielema guy and then I’m a Razorback guy.”
Lunney started 40 games at Arkansas and led the Razorbacks to the 1995 SEC West championship and their first appearance in the SEC Championship Game under Coach Danny Ford.
Bielema said he believes Lunney’s background with the Razorbacks can serve as a bridge to former players and the state.
“I think he talked to some [former players] before this hire went forward,” Lunney said. “I’ve definitely been touched by some of the outreach I’ve gotten from former players and teammates. I do think that’ll be a certain sense of my responsibility, a certain sense that our former lettermen and former players here are going to have somebody that they can identify with.
“Not that that’s just 100 percent crucial, but I think it is a very vital thing for players to feel like they have somebody they know that they can relate to, they can trust, that is on the inside. It gives them a certain sense of belonging to the program.”
Lunney, who has not recruited since serving on the San Jose State staff of Fitz Hill in 2004, was preparing to take his NCAA recruiting certification exam Wednesday.
“I think that’s the No. 1 thing on my agenda today … in case I may have the opportunity to go out tomorrow, kind of depending on if we can get this cleared,” Lunney said. “That’s not necessarily set in concrete, it’s just an idea being thrown around right now.”
Lunney, who helped Bentonville win six consecutive 7A-West Conference titles, two state championships and reach the past three Class 7A title games, said his knowledge of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney before interviewing for the tight ends job was limited to seeing Chaney miked up on a behind-thescenes special on ESPN.
“It was refreshing to watch, because he was real and personable and fun but yet very demanding,” Lunney said. “I have such a high respect for him and what he’s accomplished in his coaching career.”
Lunney said working mostly with tight ends will be different for him, but he said he already understands the tight end’s role in previous Bielema and Chaney offenses.
“I think Coach Bielema’s track record for using tight ends kind of speaks for itself,” he said. “Not just one tight end, but two tight ends. At times I think he’s used three tight ends. … So I think between Jim and Coach Bielema’s background, I think they understand the importance of using a tight end and playing to their strengths.”
Lunney said parting from the staff of his father, Barry Lunney, Sr., at Bentonville was a bittersweet moment.
“I will say this, mostly sweet, and a little bit bitter just because it has been a very special opportunity for me to work with him and under him,” he said. “I knew this was going to be kind of a once-in-a-lifetime chance when it arose eight years ago. I didn’t know it was going to be as long as it was, but I’m glad that it was because it was a special experience and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 01/17/2013