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Greenland's JJ Hollingsworth (center) signs Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, alongside his mother, Amy Johnson (from left); father, Jaye Johnson; and grandmother, Janet Hollingsworth during a signing ceremony in Dee Lee Gymnasium in Greenland. Hollingsworth signed to play football with Arkansas.
GREENLAND — It took just one conversation with Arkansas coach Sam Pittman to convince JJ Hollingsworth to become the initial member of the then-first-year coach’s recruiting class.
Hollingsworth committed to the Razorbacks in July 2020 and never wavered as he watched the program improve from 3-7 to 8-4 in Pittman’s two seasons. More than a year later, his dream came true Wednesday when he signed his letter of intent to play for the Hogs at his high school gym, surrounded by family and friends.
“After I met Coach Pittman the first time, I knew it was going to happen,” said Hollingsworth, who committed in July 2020. “I knew he was going to bring in guys to change the whole mentality of Arkansas (football)."
Hollingsworth — a consensus three-star recruit — is ranked as the 83rd-best defensive end nationally by ESPN. The 6-3, 250-pound defensive lineman received an offer after his junior year in which he racked up 66 tackles and 8 sacks.
He chose Arkansas over offers from Kansas, Arkansas State, Akron and others.
Not only was he the Hogs’ first pledge in the 2022 class, but he was also the first Greenland football player to receive scholarship from the University of Arkansas, located just 5 miles away.
During his signing day ceremony, Hollingsworth addressed the young football players in the bleachers aiming to follow in his footsteps.
“To the next generation of kids at Greenland, never let someone tell you can’t do something because I’m living proof…you can do it,” he said. “You just have to work hard and never lose faith.”
Retaining homegrown talent has been a focal point for the Razorbacks since the hiring of Pittman. Hollingsworth is one of 10 Razorback signees from the state of Arkansas.
The Hogs signed the top eight in-state recruits, according to 247sports.
“In years past, we might not have gotten all of those guys,” Hollingsworth said. “They want to build a program and that is what it is all about.”
Hollingsworth said he is ecstatic about the recruits’ desire to represent the Razorbacks.
“I just told them, ‘I’ll play where you want me to play,’” Hollingsworth said. “I just want to contribute to the team, no matter what (position) it is at.”
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