Photographs by Andy Shupe
Hunter Yurachek, athletics director at the University of Arkansas, speaks Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2017, during a press conference to introduce Chad Morris as the university's newly hired football coach at the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Minutes before David Bazzel's grand entrance in a metallic gold sport coat, the Simmons Bank lobby at Broadway and Capitol Avenue in Little Rock was packed.
There were bank executives, starting at the top of Simmons with Chairman and CEO George Makris; football fans; Canaan Sandy and his mother Ginger; and families such as Val and Jack Hansen.
All are supporters of the Little Rock Touchdown Club, which has grown from a handful of guys 15 years ago into a must-attend luncheon every Monday for football fans.
And it is not just a city affair. Good folks come from as far away as Texarkana and Magnolia.
They don't always come for the food, but they do for the speakers. Somehow, Bazzel manages to make the list of speakers better every year.
Bazzel is always surrounded by his children -- the trophies he has created. On Tuesday, before announcing this year's amazing lineup of speakers, Bazzel announced the arrival of his latest child -- the Darren McFadden Award, which will go to the best high school and college running backs in Arkansas.
He also announced Grant Garrett, the former University of Arkansas offensive lineman who provided great leadership during Houston Nutt's first season as the head coach, was going to help him this year.
Of course, Bazzel thanked all the sponsors, who make it possible for him to bring in great speakers. This year, the challenge is to find a touchdown club anywhere with a better lineup.
It kicks off Aug. 20 with Arkansas head Coach Chad Morris, who is followed on the 27th by former Hog running back Rawleigh Williams. Then Bazzel hit a grand slam with the first of his four NFL Hall of Famers.
Tuesday, Sept. 4, the only meeting not on a Monday, features Mean Joe Greene, the main cog in the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain defense that helped win four Super Bowls in six years.
On Sept. 10 the speaker will be Hugh Freeze, the former Arkansas State and Ole Miss head coach who is putting his life back together after leaving the Rebels under a shadow.
UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek will share his vision of the future for the Hogs on Sept 17.
The club goes NFL All-Pro again Sept. 24 when Ed "Too Tall" Jones speaks. After playing at Tennessee State, Jones was the first pick of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
On Oct. 1, the always entertaining Blake Anderson will make his fifth consecutive appearance. He's led Arkansas State University to four consecutive bowl appearances.
Larry Csonka, the punishing running back for the Miami Dolphins when they went undefeated and won the Super Bowl in 1972, will be in The Rock on Oct. 8.
Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell will speak Oct. 15.
Nathan Brown, who was twice honored by the LRTDC while playing at the University of Central Arkansas, will make his first appearance as head coach Oct. 22.
For 10 years, Bazzel has tried to get Steve Atwater, "The Smiling Assassin." Bazzel finally succeeded, and Atwater will speak Oct. 29.
November kicks off with the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame luncheon, which is followed by TV analysts Mack Brown on Nov. 12 and Jim Mora on Nov. 19. To wrap up the amazing season, the speaker for the Jan. 10 banquet will be the most elusive running back in NFL history, Barry Sanders.
Membership dues are $75 and can be paid online at LRTouchdown.com. Lunch begins at 11 a.m., and two of the best hours in college football each week end at 1 p.m.
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