By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas and its Razorbacks had Homecoming last Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, but for Razorbacks Simeon Blair and brothers Hayden Henry and Hudson Henry the truly coming home Homecoming awaits this Saturday.
The Razorbacks, 4-3 of the SEC, play an Arkansas based school for the first time since 1944 meeting the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference at 11 a.m. Saturday on the SEC Network at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
For fourth-year junior safety Blair of Pine Bluff Saturday marks a day of playing old friends and acquaintances from his hometown school that offered him a scholarship before he opted to walk on and earn a scholarship from the Razorbacks.
And for the Henry brothers, Little Rock natives and Pulaski Academy grads where Razorbacks bonus senior Hayden starred as a linebacker and Razorbacks third-year sophomore Hudson starred at tight end like oldest brother Hunter, the former Razorbacks Mackey Award winner and current New England Patriots tight end did before him, it’s returning to their hometown and a stadium they know so well.
“Hayden and I have played a lot of games there actually,” Hudson Henry said Tuesday evening after the Razorbacks practiced. “We both had the opportunity to go to a lot of state championships when we played under Coach (Kevin) Kelley at PA. I think going back there is special even though we have a different jersey on and are playing for a different team.”
And where Hunter played and their father, (Mark Henry) played as a Little Rock Central grad lettering as Razorbacks offensive lineman from 1988-91.
“It’s special that way and it’s special because we’re playing in our own backyard,” Hudson said. “We’re getting to play in a place where we grew up watching (former Razorbacks 2-time Doak Walker Award winner and 2-time Heisman Trophy runner-up) Darren McFadden run the ball. We grew up watching (former Razorbacks star quarterback) Matt Jones being able to sling it to … you know, he was the one who had the Miracle on Markham (beatlng LSU) I mean, places like that it’s pretty fun.”
Blair was asked how close he came to taking the UAPB offer before taking his chances walking on in 2018 under then new coach Chad Morris who would be fired with two games remaining in 2019.
“I gave it a little thought,” Blair said. “Arkansas ended up telling me how I could work for a scholarship and I felt that would be a great choice for me. I felt like it’s a real honor to go back home and be playing my hometown team that I’ve seen since I’ve really grown up.”
Though UAPB plays from the lower FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) instead of the top grade FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) that includes Arkansas and are just 1-5, Blair said the Hogs can expect the Golden Lions to come out roaring in Little Rock.
“I think they will be very excited,” Blair said. “They get to play a bigger school.”
Blair knows he’ll be personally excited.
“I’ll get to see a lot old school friends that I went to junior high with and high school and elementary school and stuff like that,” Blair said. “I know quite a few, probably about 10 or 15 players on that team that I played with when I was young.”
Coming off a 3-game SEC losing skid vs. No. 1 Georgia, No. 12 Ole Miss and No. 22 Auburn, Blair and the Henry brothers assert the Hogs won’t overlook UAPB as they seek to regain footing on a winning track.
“They’re a very athletic group,” Blair said. “They have great speed with their receivers. They play both quarterbacks (Skyler Perry and Xzavier Vaughn). They have great arms. They can both hit you with the read-option game. We just make sure we do our job.”
Hayden Henry said an Arkansas defense that Coach Sam Pittman admits is “banged up” and needing next week’s open date “that can’t get here soon enough,” is regrouped.
“We’re fine,” Hayden Henry said. “We had our second good practice in a row today.”
About as touted out of Pulaski Academy as older brother All-American tight end Hunter Henry, Hudson Henry has been dogged by injuries and illness since his 2019 arrival.
Last Saturday was his first healthy game this season. He caught his first two passes of the campaign,
“This past week it felt really good to get some confidence back and be able to get back in there and help the team out,” Hudson Henry said.