Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and its All-America Committee, voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
State of the Hogs: Kiwi hits the spot for Knox
Arkansas receiver Trey Knox catches a pass during a game against Colorado State on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Fayetteville.
You know what Forrest Gump says about a box of chocolates: You never know what you are going to get.
A phone interview with a college football player can be like that, but now and then, the taste buds come alive.
They did this week with a 30-minute visit with Arkansas sophomore wide receiver Trey Knox. It prompted some research on a post-workout treat Knox admitted became addictive during the early days of the covid-19 pandemic.
First, you must understand that gaining weight for Knox is almost impossible. He could eat every box of chocolates in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and he’d still be a 6-5, 205-pounder with a six-pack.
For the old-timers, think Greg Childs, the Warren phenom who blossomed in the Bobby Petrino era. There have been few wide receivers that looked any better than Childs.
Most imagined Knox looking like that when he got to Arkansas and quickly added about 15 pounds. He was a good-looking 218 pounds for his first spring with the Razorbacks.
Spring No. 2 was wiped out by the pandemic giving Knox another chance to add a few pounds. It hasn’t happened despite his best efforts, including regular trips to Tropical Smoothie for protein shakes.
“I can eat all day and I won’t gain a pound,” Knox said. “My metabolism is crazy fast.
“I get really annoyed. In periods like this when the gyms were closed, it’s been tough. I tried to keep a balance with the workouts I’ve been able to get in and also eat enough to maintain (weight).”
College nutrition programs are heavy with protein shakes. The “on the go” window is almost always open at the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center. It’s where the athletes get most of their meals and shakes are a constant.
I’m guessing they will be making a new shake at the Jones Center this summer. It’s called the Kiwi Quencher.
“When I was home the last three months, I had a daily two-mile run,” Knox said. “I got a smoothie afterward every day. That Kiwi Quencher is addictive.”
I fell in love after Knox explained the ingredients: ¾ cup of Greek yogurt, ½ cup of almond milk, 2 scoops of protein powder, 1 ½ cups of kiwis, 6 strawberries, 1 ½ cups of ice cubes.
“Oh, yeah, addictive,” he said. “I did a bunch of those. You ought to try them.”
I’ll skip the two-mile run, or the other stuff Knox did to stay in shape with no gyms open.
“I found some hills to run around Middle Tennessee State,” he said. “I had some dumbbells and found a sled in the park to push. I let my mind run wild.”
And, he ran. Apparently, it was the right recipe. The Hogs are finished with the first week of voluntary workouts on campus. Knox – and his teammates – came through fine.
“First, we have maintained our strength,” Knox said. “I don’t think any of us have lost strength. I didn’t.
“I really worried that the workouts were going to kick my butt when we got back to campus, but I wasn’t too winded. We all understand that working out on your own is nothing like the intensity you get with an entire team.
“I was excited to get back here last week, but I admit it was scary. I didn’t know if I was prepared for what we’d do together. I thought I might die (from workouts).
“I feel good about what we did in the off period, what I call the ‘corona period.’ It wasn’t easy to find ways to do your workouts, but we did them.”
And, they did let their mind go wild. They were creative in how to stay sharp with their skill sets.
“I found some 7-on-7 workouts around town at home,” he said. “We were throwing and catching most days.”
Knox did some road trips to find other ways to stay sharp.
“Our guys were city hopping,” he said. “Trey Burks went to Houston to work with Rakeem Boyd. I went to Memphis to work with Shamar Nash. There were a bunch of us that got to Little Rock, too.
“Layne Hatcher, the starting Arkansas State quarterback, threw to us. It was John David White, Hudson Henry and a bunch more.”
Of course, there were daily virtual Zoom sessions for players with their coaches.
“Those were 45 minutes to an hour, but the rest of the days were ours,” Knox said. “We made the most of the virtual meetings and we did things on top of that with each other.”
There were daily video games in multiple platforms.
“We formed teams and played others (outside of the Razorback squad),” he said. “We organized them through FaceTime. We did those every single day and it was a great way to keep up with your teammate.
“Mike Woods, Koilan Jackson, Drew Vest, Austin Nix, Shane Clenin and Ricky Stromberg played most nights. Sometimes a strength coach might pop into a video game. Our coaches are family oriented, so it was a lot of fun.”
The Hogs were separated by hundreds of miles, but Knox said the pandemic drew them closer.
“It was hard when we found out that we were not going to have spring ball and not get to put on a helmet and a pad,” Knox said. “It was tough because it’s been a long time and that’s what football players do.”
It’s going to be a few more weeks before that happens.
“When they told us we had to go home, I thought, ‘Oh, just give us one play with a helmet and pads, just one play,’” Knox said. “I waited around a couple of days before I headed home.
“I got right into it, finding some local kids — some local quarterbacks — to throw and catch, just a way to run some routes and stay in shape.”
The players have organized their own throw-and-catch games since returning to campus. They do it every summer. No one was going to stop them this time. Senior transfer quarterback Feleipe Franks has led the drills as they implement the system installed by offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
“We are all learning the offense together,” Knox said. “Even my position coach (Justin Stepp) is learning it with us.
“Franks has been a leader. He encourages us. You can hear him shout, ‘Good rep, good rep,’ when we get it right. He can be that guy for us. He has a rocket for an arm.”
At 6-6, 235 pounds, Franks is an imposing figure.
“I’m 6-5 and Feleipe towers over me a good two inches,” Knox said. “I think he’s going to be a great quarterback.”
The team has learned the plays, Knox said, but they know the polish isn’t there yet.
“We’ve worked hard in our virtual meetings,” Knox said. “As a group, we know how to talk our way through things. It’s been a funny, different experience. It’s one thing to know them, but another thing to understand the nuances.
“We will be ready to get on the field with our coaches, but you would expect there to be some struggles. Until we get on the field and understand what the (defensive) box looks like, or what the back end looks like on a specific play, we won’t truly understand them.
“You have so many choices in this offense that we have to understand the leverage points and then do it very fast.”
It’s like a box of chocolates. You won’t know what you get just yet.
“This offense is great,” Knox said. “It’s designed to catch people off balance. There is a play for every situation, to do what we need in any way. There is a run for every situation and a pass. I would call it skill-position friendly.
“One week the offense might be one way, the next week totally different. It will fit what we need for every opponent. I love it.”
Sounds addictive, like a Kiwi Quencher.
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