When Hogs legend and Hope native David Johnson brought cold watermelons to Fayetteville to serve the Razorback Football team and staff in the south end of Reynolds’ Stadium nine days ago, he didn’t bargain for what Coach Sam Pittman would give him for the effort, a shiny autographed helmet with the declaration “Best Watermelon in the World!”
Johnson says the Razorback football team and its staff is always grateful to see him when he comes to campus for what has become a 22-year tradition, one that started with a meeting with Frank Broyles when Danny Ford was still head coach.
Frank told Johnson, “‘It sounds like you’ve got everything lined out how you want it, even down to how you’re going to get the watermelon here,’ and he said, ‘Talk to Danny. You tell Danny what you want to do. And if you have a problem, tell him to call me.’”
And so began a 22-year string of deliveries David Johnson has made, helped considerably as he points out, by members of the community and by first Hudson and then Tyson Foods, to grateful Razorbacks and sometimes, as happened during Ford’s tenure, when there were many watermelons left after the football team’s turn, the Razorback Band, the track team, the basketball team and the baseball team.
Over the years, Johnson says, he has been given autographed footballs for his efforts, often donating these for charitable fundraisers. Recently, an autographed football was auctioned for $1,200 by an organization in Hot Springs, Johnson says. The Sam Pittman signed helmet is the latest in these gifts, and Johnson says it will be unique in his collection: “I’ve got probably ten or 15 balls that are autographed but none with the coaches.”
Recently, Johnson gave a gift himself to Hope High School, the helmet he wore when he played as a Razorback, which he hopes will stand as an example of what a young man from Hope can do. Johnson also said he had recently been honored with a Lifetime membership in the Razorback Alumni Foundation and Razorback Club.
There are no plans, Johnson says, to retire from his role as supplier of watermelons for the Razorbacks annual feast. “It makes me feel good when all these players come and look you straight in the face and tell you how much they appreciate you. You can’t take that, put it in a bottle and seal it. No, it is what it is.”
As for what he thinks, having seen this year’s team’s August 20 scrimmage, of their chances this year, Johnson is optimistic. “We’re not as big as I’d like to see, but we’re fast. I think we’re going to shake some people up. I think Alabama is worried about us. If we get out and play like we’re capable of playing, we’ll beat Alabama,” he says.