Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Hill's stepfather: Hogs have something cooking
North Little Rock receiver K.J. Hill runs after a catch during the team's spring football game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Jaison Sterling - Sterling Imageworks
Arkansas will enter Saturday's season-opening game against Auburn coming off back-to-back losing seasons and facing low expectations from many national pundits.
None of that seems to worry Montez Peterson, the stepfather of highly recruited receiver K.J. Hill of North Little Rock. Peterson and Hill visited Arkansas last Saturday, and Peterson came away optimistic about the direction of the Razorbacks program under Coach Bret Bielema.
Hill, 6-1, 192 pounds, 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has approximately 20 scholarship offers from schools and has set up official visits to Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida. He is a major target of the Razorbacks and has visited the campus numerous times with his mother, Diedra, and Peterson.
"We came there expecting the same thing that's always happened, which is not saying anything negative about the previous visits," Peterson said. "When you visit so many times things become a little routine."
Last Saturday's visit was unlike any other.
" I don't know, it was a different kind of feel about everything," Peterson said. "It was more of a celebration, family-type [atmosphere]. ... I don't know, like when you go to a family barbecue or something. That's the best way I can describe it."
Hill and his parents, along with highly touted Dumas tight end Will Gragg, watched the scrimmage in a north end zone suite with Mike Anderson, Arkansas' men's basketball coach, Jimmy Dykes, the Razorbacks' women's basketball coach, and former Hog and Razorback Foundation associate director Marvin Caston.
"The best way I could describe it was coming in and almost seeing a relative," Peterson said. "That's how they greeted us and they treated us as family. They just wanted to be genuine, and that shows they care."
Peterson, his wife and Hill also have visited Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.
"This is probably the one time of all the visits we've been on that I saw him smiling constantly, talking, mingling, just looking as if he was comfortable in his element, like he was at home," Peterson said of his stepson. "So it was pretty big for myself and his mom."
Anderson's wife, Marcheita, and Dykes' wife, Tiffany, also interacted with them.
"The way Coach Anderson's wife embraced my wife, it was like two sisters down there talking," Peterson said.
Bielema made a big impression during a meeting in his office. Peterson said Bielema showed a passion when talking about how special Hill is as a person and athlete. Bielema told them Hill wasn't just wanted, he was needed.
"It was heartfelt," Peterson said. "It wasn't a recruiting pitch. It was really, really, really a sincere setting and environment."
The meeting with Bielema also had a major impact on Hill's mother.
"I know I sound shocked, and I guess in a small way I am because of the way it affected my wife," Peterson said. "It was the first time I saw Diedra acting like this was a family-type thing. Up to this point everything had been recruiting, recruiting, recruiting."
Peterson and Diedra left around 6 p.m. Saturday while Hill stayed over until Sunday and rode back home with Gragg. Before they left, Bielema assured Hill's parents that someone would keep eye on their son.
"The kid isn't even on the team," Peterson said. "But the fact he was concerned about his well-being while he was there. It wasn't so much if K.J was supervised. It was more, he knows we're trying to give K.J. all the time he needs to make a sound decision. He knows that, but at the same time he's thinking like us parents."
Bielema spoke well of Hill's character and brought up some of his tendencies he's noticed during the recruiting process.
"He mentioned a couple. I was kind of shocked that he knew those," Peterson said. "It just shows how closely he's been watching him, not just his athletic skills and all of that stuff but as a human being."
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Director of recruiting E.K. Franks also rubbed off on Hill and his parents.
"E.K. is a ball of energy," Peterson said. "He's a guy that never stops smiling. I got to envision my son being around this guy. No matter what's going on with his day, E.K. obviously is going to bring a little sunshine."
If Hill chooses Arkansas, Peterson said would be very comfortable with the decision.
"You can see everything starting to change within the program as far as a family situation," he said. "You can go back as soon as Bobby Petrino and understand the division that was within the program.
"Dykes isn't going to endorse Bielema and Bielema isn't going to endorse Anderson and vice versus and all that if the guys didn't believe those guys were genuine."
The Arkansas coaching staff showered Peterson and his wife with 15 handwritten letters Thursday, and he believes the public will eventually see what he's experienced.
"It's going to be a total internal change at Arkansas that people don't even see yet, that I know personally is happening," Peterson said. "It feels good as a parent that doesn't have any ties so to speak, as far as working there or anything like that, to know that's going on there."
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Sports on 08/24/2014