Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Jefferson all out for Arkansas in Memphis
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) congratulates running back Raheim Sanders (5), Saturday, October 15, 2022 during the fourth quarter of a football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.
MEMPHIS — It’s cold and the city is under a water boil order, but all eight of the Arkansas Razorbacks who took part in a Liberty Bowl news conference Monday afternoon were smiling, laughing and having a good time.
“It is a privilege to be here,” said Dalton Wagner, who was a few feet from the star of the show, KJ Jefferson.
The senior offensive lineman said he was relieved when Jefferson announced he was returning for his senior season and that he’s been all out during their bowl preparations.
Asked if Jefferson says anything if a block is missed, Wagner laughed and said, “Absolutely. I missed two blocks on a simple toss sweep against LSU last year. The first time he told me to hang in there and the second time he said quit thinking about it. I got it right from then on.”
Jefferson was relaxed and had been talking football with an assortment of reporters for close to 30 minutes when he finally got a break, a short one but the subject was not football.
What size shoe does he wear?
“Just a 12,” he said with a smile.
What teammate has the largest feet?
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“Probably Devon Manuel. He wears a size 17,” said Jefferson, a fact that was confirmed by Wagner.
There had been just a hint of a glimmer in his eyes talking about shoes. It seems Jefferson has a passion for shoes.
“That’s my thing,” he said and when asked how many pairs he owned, he paused and said, “I’m sure it is more than 50.”
Of course, he has a favorite pair: Jordan 11 Cool Gray.
“Gray is my favorite color,” Jefferson said.
More camera lights and more reporters approached the easy going Jefferson and the conversation began about football again, and of course, he was asked about the portal.
So far, 24 Razorbacks have entered the transfer portal, of which three, maybe four, were being counted on for Wednesday’s Liberty Bowl game with Kansas.
It was the volume of names and rumors that Jefferson might transfer that made him make the announcement he was staying.
“Honestly, I don’t think about the portal. I’m too busy working to make myself a better player,” he said.
That’s a great attitude from a young man who obviously remembers only one major school recruited him as a quarterback, Arkansas.
In his two seasons as the starting quarterback, he has completed 283 passes on 565 attempts for 5,037 yards, 43 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions and two of those were fumbled off a receiver’s hand to a defender.
As a starter, he has also rushed for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jefferson missed two games this season due to injuries and the Hogs lost them both, but he played much of the season dinged up.
He might visit the medical tent on the sideline, but he never stays long and is always ready to get back on the field.
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Jefferson was asked if Arkansas might be down after playing in a bigger bowl last season and Kansas might be up having not played in a bowl game since 2008.
“We’ll be ready,” Jefferson said seriously. “We just have to play our game. Fast. Not someone else’s game, just ours. We are ready to play Arkansas Razorback football.”
Sitting there in a gray Razorback hoodie and wearing a Razorback beanie, Jefferson looked ready to get up and go straight to the field.
He’s healthy and happy. His home town of Sardis, Miss., is 53 miles from Simmons Liberty Bowl Field, and his No. 1 fan, his mother, family and friends are all coming to the game.
What’s not to look forward to. Memphis may be cold and having some water issues, but a postseason bowl is always good.
And of those 50 pairs of shoes that KJ Jefferson has, none of those are football cleats.
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