I remember your first touchdown pass as a Razorback. A ten-yard completion to Michael Smith in the north endzone of Razorback Stadium. You threw it in 2008, your true freshman year and Bobby Petrino's first season as head coach of the Razorbacks. You threw it against the Nick Saban coached secondary of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was the lone bright spot of an otherwise miserable game in which Alabama dominated throughout. Crimson Tide running backs scored four touchdowns on runs totaling 181 yards, and Casey Dick threw three interceptions, including two which were returned for touchdowns.
Your touchdown pass, which shaved the Crimson Tide advantage from five touchdowns down to four, was fairly pedestrian. No offense, but it certainly was not highlight material. It was just a good play made by a freshman quarterback against a second-team defense in a game that had long been salted away. Yet following the game it was largely the only play Razorback fans could walk away feeling positive about. Many latched onto that pass as a symbol of hope for the future, as there was absolutely nothing else to hold onto.
It's hard to imagine that four years later fans are again desperately clinging to you as a symbol of hope following a blowout loss to Alabama. Harder to imagine that, as a fifth-year senior, you would be a source of said hope despite not having played a single snap against the Tide. Harder still to imagine that between the desperation of those two moments with the weight of the state of Arkansas upon your shoulders, the Razorbacks would attain such heights as their first BCS Bowl appearance ever, their most victories in a season since the 1970s, and their highest final poll ranking since the same time frame. You, Tyler, played a significant role in all of those achievements, and you should be extremely proud of yourself.
Walking into that press conference Saturday evening and saying what you said took a tremendous amount of courage, which any fan with half of a brain can see you possess in spades. It was assertive, but stopped short of shaming individual players. It was earnest while remaining guarded. It was off the cuff and impassioned, but at the same time was a long way from the grandstanding of Tim Tebow following the Florida loss to Ole Miss in 2008.
In short, it was everything that needed to be said by every coach and administrator affiliated with the Razorback program who has been asked to step in front of a microphone since the shocking loss to Louisiana-Monroe. Unfortunately, of everything that has needed to be said, very, very little has actually been said. Truthfully, only your brief statement has measured up.
And for that, I have nothing other than a most sincere apology. I am so, so sorry that I have sometimes undervalued your ability and your leadership, especially considering it is painfully obvious that this football team relies upon you more than any team has relied on any individual player that I can recall.
I'm sorry. And thank you.
I'm sorry that I have questioned your physical abilities and decision making at times over the past five years. It has to be difficult to come next in line behind a quarterback whose arm is the stuff of legend and hyperbole. Thank you for proving me wrong.
I'm sorry that I didn't always credit you with the courage and toughness you have always displayed. I never considered you soft, but at times last season I didn't give you enough credit for withstanding the battering you took on a weekly basis. It took your team to the heights I spoke of previously in this letter, and the credit goes to you. Thank you.
This was supposed to be the Razorbacks' season. The best opportunity for a championship in a generation. It was supposed to be your season. An opportunity to define yourself as possibly the best quarterback in college football, and to set yourself up for an even larger NFL Draft payday than the one you turned down following the 2011 season. Instead, it seems that 2012 could go down as a season lost, one which readily cedes all the positive momentum Bobby Petrino built during his time at Arkansas.
And, of course, there is Tyler Wilson, four years after assuming responsibility for the hopes of the state of Arkansas following a devastating loss to Alabama, willfully accepting the same task again, this time without even having played a down.
I am so sorry that your journey at Arkansas has come full circle. But I am so thankful that you are here to lead when nobody else is.
Stay loyal and true,
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.