Consistency is key:

Pettway motivated by humble Alabama roots

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Arkansas receiver La'Michael Pettway runs after a catch during a game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas receiver La'Michael Pettway runs after a catch during a game against LSU on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

Walk in the front door of the house overgrown by trees well off Shiloh Road in Atmore, Ala., and the living room sits on the right-hand side. To the left is another room once occupied by two people each night.

In all, three rooms and a bathroom make up the now-worn down structure Arkansas junior receiver La’Michael Pettway used to call home. It belonged to his great-great grandmother and sits on land at one time owned by a great aunt, he said.

In March, his most recent trip to Alabama, Pettway visited the light blue house with the rotting front porch and discolored white wooden support beams. There is a driveway, but it too is overrun with foliage and hardly visible.

Determined to get another glance, Pettway walked through the yard of the homeowners next door and hopped a fence.



The home in Atmore, Ala., that belonged to La'Michael Pettway's great-great grandmother. "I basically just grew up in that house," he said.

One picture of the front of the home, which he’s held onto for years, now serves as the header of his Twitter profile. More importantly, it lends motivation and reminds him of a conversation between he and his grandmother, Savannah Curry – his only living grandparent.

“I told my grandma once I got to where I wanted to be I was going to go back and fix that house,” Pettway said. “That’s special to me. She means a lot to me. She was a person I’ve been around my whole life. That’s my mom’s mom. I’ve always had a connection with her that I haven’t had with my other grandparents.

“I recently lost my dad’s mom a few years ago, and it dawned on me that, ‘You’ve only got one grandparent left. You need to get her flowers while she’s still here.’ I would love to get that house back to the way it used to be.”

Pettway essentially grew up in the house, sharing the small space with his grandmother, his mother Linda, and three aunts prior to moving to Nashville, Ark., eight hours away north and west. Over time, the home became too difficult to maintain and the remainder of the family eventually moved out.

His on-field performance this fall could expedite the upgrades he hopes to make on that house. A standout in Arkansas’ blistery cold spring game (6 catches, 91 yards), Pettway has every opportunity to become the Razorbacks’ next great receiver. Standing at 6-2, 219, he also has the frame, and Arkansas’ staff hasn’t been shy about sharing that fact with him.

This offseason, Pettway dropped five pounds and lowered his body fat composition from 11.3 percent to 7 percent. Already possessing a solid build entering workouts, the receiver stood out to first-year strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll this summer.

“He’s a guy that transformed his body,” Carroll said. “For him to transform within a seven-month period and drop 4 percent body fat and keep his weight (nearly) the same is really a credit to his work ethic and what he invested over the offseason.”

Pettway’s frame is exactly what coach Chad Morris, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and receivers coach Justin Stepp want in a 9-man and boundary receiver. Former SMU star receiver Courtland Sutton, a second-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos, stood 6-3, 218 and wore No. 16 for the Mustangs. For this offensive staff, the physical similarities are striking.

“He’s a lot like Courtland,” Craddock said. “From a strength standpoint, from a body standpoint, he’s a lot like him when we first got to SMU.”

And as it turns out, Sutton and Pettway’s paths have crossed thanks to social media. After not knowing much about Sutton’s days at SMU, Pettway said the two have shared countless conversations about the staff’s offense, Stepp and who he is as a man.

That relationship is essential for Pettway. They’ve been in contact ever since the new staff arrived.

“It’s important to me because I’m that guy that they had at SMU,” he said. “That’s important to me because I know exactly what they want and what they’re looking for. Coach Craddock tells me every day if I continue to make plays like this I can be a first rounder.”

One of the first times Craddock made the claim was Arkansas’ spring game, which Morris called Pettway’s “best day” of the spring. Pettway took it and ran it with it, Craddock said.

“Just like Pettway, everybody’s buying in. … He’s had a great summer and you see him getting a lot of extra work in, catching a lot of balls on his own and doing the things it takes to be the next first round draft pick to come out of this system.”

Dating back to spring practices, consistency is a word Morris uses regularly when discussing Pettway. It extends not only to his production on the field, but the weight room, classroom and everything he does. Morris added that Pettway will be a player who is “strained really hard during fall camp.”

“He’s going to get a lot of 1-on-1s, a lot of matchups on that side that he’s got to win,” Morris said, “and that’s usually what that 9-man does.”

To reinforce the ‘consistency’ mantra and assure Pettway is in the right frame of mind entering this fall, he and Stepp had “deep” conversations throughout the summer months. Stepp had a first-class seat for Sutton’s rise to stardom and the NFL.

He knows Pettway’s potential is limitless, too – if he’s consistent.

“He’s got to make more plays,” Stepp said. “He’s had a great summer, and it is evident this means a lot to him. He’s worked his tail off, and I’m so excited to get out there and see what he’s able to do. I think he’s going to have a big fall.”

A big fall that could place Pettway one step closer to realizing his football dreams, and back at the home where all of his dreams originated.

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