Razorback who was NCAA's first to run with prosthetics decides time is right to turn pro

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, February 7, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas All-American sprinter Hunter Woodhall, who in 2018 became the first track and field athlete with prosthetic legs to run for an NCAA Division I program, has decided to turn professional.

Woodhall said Saturday he is bypassing his senior indoor and outdoor college seasons and will choose between pro offers to be presented Feb. 15.

“We have three different contracts on the table as far as apparel brands, and we’re hoping to sign sometime at the beginning of March,” Woodhall said. “I do have one company in mind that I’m most interested in, but we’ll just kind of see how that develops.”

Woodhall, who added there are other companies he’ll be working with professionally for marketing and social media opportunities, said he had planned to turn pro after the 2020 outdoor season before it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reason it didn’t happen last year is literally the day after the Tokyo Olympics got postponed, every contract that was on the table was retracted,” said Woodhall, who won silver and bronze medals at the 2016 Paralympics. “Just because obviously with no Games, there’s not really a lot of sense in putting out a bunch of money for the athletes.

“The opportunity’s on the table now, so I just wanted to take advantage of it and move to the next part of my career.”

Woodhall — who combined has more than 3 million followers on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter — said that in anticipation of the NCAA passing legislation that would allow athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, he expected to run for the Razorbacks during the indoor season.

But that legislation was tabled by the NCAA Division I Council in January.

Woodhall said the NCAA also raised concerns about the profits from a company that sells tie-dyed hoodies — Gaint Hoodie — that Woodhall is a partner with two others.

The company — which was started in November, Woodhall said — has sold more than 100,000 hoodies and was featured on Oprah Winfrey’s favorite things of 2020. He said there also will be an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday regarding the company.

“The NCAA in a lot of ways forced me out through some decisions made on the name, image and likeness rule, with the vote pushed back,” Woodhall said. “They came back and said, ‘All the things we said were going to be OK, no longer will be OK.’

“The things that they were asking me to do to stay in the NCAA and be part of the season was not worth the four meets that I was going to be able to run.”

Woodhall, who will graduate from the UA in May with a marketing degree, praised Arkansas’ compliance officials for their support.

“The University of Arkansas and the compliance team and everyone involved with that was instrumental in fighting for me and having my back through the process,” he said. “”But it’s difficult when answers [from the NCAA] are few and far between, and they’re very inconsistent.

“At the end of the day, it just made more sense to move on.”

Woodhall will run one more race in his Arkansas uniform when he competes in the 400 in the America Track League professional meet today at the Randal Tyson Track Center. It will be his first time to run competitively since the 2020 SEC indoor meet.

“Wearing my Arkansas gear one last time,” he said. “I’m going to be proud to wear it on my chest.”

Woodhall, who turns 22 on Feb. 17, said he will continue to live and train in Fayetteville with Razorbacks assistant coach Doug Case.

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