Andrew Armstrong never wavered from Plan A

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Friday, September 15, 2023
Arkansas wide receiver Andrew Armstrong (2) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass, Saturday, Sept, 9, 2023, during the second quarter of the Razorbacks’ 28-6 win over Kent State at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
( Hank Layton)
Arkansas wide receiver Andrew Armstrong (2) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass, Saturday, Sept, 9, 2023, during the second quarter of the Razorbacks’ 28-6 win over Kent State at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Andrew Armstrong was deflated and had reached a low point.

In 2021, the Dallas native was gearing up for preseason practices, determined to finally make his presence felt at Texas A&M-Commerce. He redshirted in 2019 and had the following season wiped away because of the covid-19 pandemic.

But a phone call came that altered his outlook on the upcoming season.

“They called Andrew right before fall camp and told him not to come until class started,” said Kaprisha Armstrong, Andrew’s mother. “He was like, ‘What?’ They said, ‘We’ll bring your brother on as a walk-on and as a favor we want to get some of these other kids in,’ because they didn’t have enough funding. He was so undone.

“I really had to talk to him and be like, ‘Look, this is a plan for you. This is not about they don’t want you here and you’re not good enough. This is probably a test.’”

The uncertainty for Armstrong didn’t last long, though. On the night of Day 1 of fall camp, he received another call. This time, the news was positive.

Armstrong was asked if he could join the team for Day 2. He was thrilled to get the chance to prove himself. But the ordeal, in Kaprisha’s opinion, put a chip on her son’s shoulder that remains to this day.

“He feels like they thought they had something better and that’s why they didn’t want him to come,” she said. “He had to really make them see that you can’t deny my talent and what I’m bringing to this team. That crushed him.

“He was crushed. He was like, ‘Why is this happening? Why?’”

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Armstrong went on to catch 15 passes for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns over 10 games in 2021.

And in his final season with the Lions, he became the program’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2014. Armstrong averaged 92.7 yards per game, finished with 100-plus yards six times and had 13 touchdown catches.

Kaprisha was unsurprised by the success. It was another instance of her son showcasing an ability to overcome adversity and never waver.

Armstrong showed resilience, too, during high school, when he faced a lack of playing time at DeSoto High School and in his junior season at Bishop Dunne before emerging as a senior. His recruitment wasn’t all that he had hoped it would be either.

“I would always tell him that whatever God has for you is for you,” Kaprisha said. “It has never passed you, it has never failed you. It’s for you. I feel like he was set on the path to go D-II just to … maybe God felt like he wasn’t ready for the D-I [level], not mature enough. He’s been able to get mature, get bigger, stronger mentally and physically, and now he’s where he’s at. I really feel like that’s the path that was laid out for him.

“It was very hard on him because he felt like he was good enough [to play D-I]. But I said to just keep moving, and that’s what he did. He never stopped working hard because he didn’t get the opportunity. He just worked hard to get to where he wanted to be.”

Following his breakout season at Texas A&M-Commerce, Armstrong entered the NCAA transfer portal and reportedly had programs such as Missouri, Louisville, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Miami and Wisconsin pushing for his signature.

Arkansas called him on Thanksgiving, Kaprisha said, and a visit was set up for December. He wound up signing with the Razorbacks largely because of his bond with receivers coach Kenny Guiton.

Armstrong quickly stood out in Arkansas’ spring practices and grew into a potential go-to option for quarterback KJ Jefferson in the preseason. Many teammates and coaches marveled at his speed, and strength coach Ben Sowders said he was one of five players on the roster to run at least 22 mph in the offseason.

“I tell Andrew all the time he’s just savvy, man. He’s savvy,” Guiton said in August. “He knows how to get open, he knows how to create space, he knows how to create separation and he knows zone coverages, where the hole’s going to be. He’s just sneaky fast, honestly.

“He’s a long-strider guy, so at times he knows how to be deceptive to where he sets up his speed.”

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Through two games, Jefferson has looked his way most often in the passing game. Armstrong has 9 catches on 13 targets for 99 yards and 3 touchdowns, including 2 scores against Kent State.

Jefferson gave Armstrong a top-shelf compliment after the Week 2 win, labeling him “quarterback friendly.”

“Any time I roll out of the pocket or break the pocket, he’s always trying to mirror me, get in my line of vision,” Jefferson added. “[It’s great] having a guy like that who understands football, has a great sense of football IQ, is passionate about the game.

“I mean, any time I know he’s on the field and I break the pocket, I know he’s going to find some kind of way to try to get open and get in my line of vision. It’s been good.”

Kaprisha said Armstrong, dating to youth football, has had in his mind that he will one day play in the NFL. That is Plan A. There are paths he could take should football not work out in the end, she added, but the game is his sole focus.

Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman on Monday noted Armstrong has performed better than expected.

“He’s a lot faster,” Pittman added. “He showed flashes on tape of all the things that we’ve seen here. [He has] overall speed and ability to catch, but I think it has everything to do with what kind of person he is. He’s just a hard-working, great kid.

“He’s just a really great kid, appreciative of playing in front of a sold-out crowd and those things.”

When Kaprisha watches Armstrong at Arkansas, her heart is full and a smile comes to her face knowing what he has been through in his football journey. She believes he will reach his dreams, because he has made it this far.

“It was not given to him. He had to work for this,” Kaprisha said. “And even though he’s worked to get to the SEC, he still wants to prove himself. Like, yeah, you’re good enough to get to the SEC, but he wants to prove he’s good enough to play and get out there. Even though he’s getting praise, it’s not like he feels like he can chill now. He’s never content.

“He is really trying to make name for himself. He’s not going to give up, slack off, nothing.”


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