Photographs by Benjamin Krain
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema motions to the crowd before speaking at the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, at Embassy Suites in Little Rock.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Applause and laughter resounded Wednesday morning in the lobby of Simmons Bank.
A passer-by might have thought your friends at Simmons were giving away interest-free loans instead of just low interest, but this was about something they do in the community.
As the major sponsor of the Little Rock Touchdown Club, Simmons makes sure David Bazzel doesn't worry about limits when it comes to getting guest speakers for the weekly luncheon that has between 200-500 people come together to hear about Saturday's religion of football.
The LRTDC is a club open to everyone. The only requirement is you need to join.
The group of 15 speakers -- the most of any touchdown club in the country -- moves into No. 1 of all time before Bret Bielema even begins to prepare his remarks to kick off the club's season Aug. 21.
Bielema always attracts a big crowd, and as the head coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville he should, but he may be challenged this season.
After Bielema is Steve "The Ol' Ball Coach" Spurrier, who has almost all the hardware that goes with success in football. He's won a Heisman Trophy, then became the only Heisman winner to coach one. He coached a national championship team at Florida, and he's in the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and coach. He also played in the NFL for 10 years.
Along the way, Spurrier gained the reputation as owning a very sharp wit.
When he was at Florida, he said: "You can't spell Citrus without U-T," meaning Tennessee was going to the Citrus Bowl and not winning the SEC East; Florida was.
When Peyton Manning announced he was coming back for his senior season with the Vols, Spurrier said, "I know why Peyton came back for his senior year: He wanted to be a three-time Citrus Bowl MVP."
A week later comes "Iron" Mike Ditka, who owns three Super Bowl rings -- one as a player, one as an assistant coach and one as a head coach. He's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ditka's day is Tuesday, Sept. 5. All other club meetings are Monday.
Next up is Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long on Sept. 11. He's followed by Tommy Tuberville, a native of Camden and Harmony Grove (let those folks settle which is truly his hometown) who as the Auburn head coach beat the Crimson Tide six consecutive times, on Sept. 18. In 2004, he led the Tigers to a perfect season. Tuberville is being encouraged by many to run for governor of Alabama.
Somehow, someway, Bazzel persuaded Bielema's former boss and the current athletic director at Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez, to come to central Arkansas on Sept. 25.
Baz is still working on the next date, Oct. 2, but he has Barrett Jones for Oct. 9. Jones played on three national championship teams at Alabama. Just as impressively, he never made anything below an A as a student while earning a master's degree.
Just when you thought it couldn't get better, along comes former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops on Oct. 16. Arkansas State University head Coach Blake Anderson will make his fourth consecutive appearance Oct. 23, and the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame induction and lunch is set for Oct. 30.
University of Central Arkansas head Coach Steve Campbell kicks off November. On Nov. 13, Steve Hatchell, CEO of the National Football Foundation, will present the James Street Award for Sportsmanship. Dari Nowkhah of the SEC Network closes the regular season Nov. 20.
The Jan. 11 banquet features one of the all-time greats in Marcus Allen, but more on him later.
To join, go to LRTouchdown.com. The best bet is the Super Sports package for $150, which includes membership in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame.
Sports on 08/10/2017
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