Four Razorbacks were drafted into the NFL over the span of several hours Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Obviously, ArkansasExpats.com sends hearty plaudits to Jake Bequette, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs for being among the top 150 draftees. All found seemingly good homes in the pros, and Wright and Childs will continue their joined-at-the-hip careers together in Minnesota (selfish teaser here: my Arkansas Times column this week will be centered on the Warren duo).
The draft ended without DeAnthony Curtis having his name called, as expected. He would quickly sign a free agent deal with Tampa Bay, and while I readily profess my own bias here, I fully anticipate that Curtis will figure out some way to blossom in the pro ranks, whether in South Florida or elsewhere.
Curtis was, in the eyes of many, the crown jewel of the 2008 recruiting class, a four-star running back from Camden Fairview who was purported to be as well-rounded a running back prospect as any in the region. He had decent size, good speed and shiftiness, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. These skills, quite frankly, were almost never on display during Curtis' four-year run in Fayetteville.
Given an opportunity to log some carries as a freshman, Curtis could scarcely find space to run behind a suspect offensive line. Worse yet, he fumbled in a critical situation at Kentucky, which led to the Wildcats scoring a late game-winning TD. Curtis' playing time decreased and his confidence, presumably, was shot.
He transitioned to fullback in 2009 because the Hogs suddenly had a glut of tailback talent with Knile Davis, Ronnie Wingo and Broderick Green all arriving on campus to compete for carries. Dennis Johnson and Michael Smith were still around as well, meaning that Curtis suddenly found himself far down the pecking order. Over the 2009-10 seasons, Curtis got all of one measly carry for three yards and six receptions, including a TD in the first win over Texas A&M. That was basically it, but you never read any stories about him being a malcontent or a threat to transfer. He got his degree in 3 1/2 years, spent some time at receiver at cornerback when depth issues arose at those positions, and dutifully played whatever role he was asked to play.
As a senior, Curtis got a few more totes early in the schedule, but sat idly for weeks once the Hogs entered conference play. Finally, at the tail end of a 42-point pasting of Tennessee, he was summoned for cleanup duty, and in the waning minutes he broke loose for a 26-yard touchdown run. It was the first, and ultimately last, rushing TD of his career.
Curtis can draw some inspiration from undrafted success stories of the past, such as Willie Parker or Rod Smith, two guys who became Super Bowl heroes and Pro Bowl performers after never hearing their names called by the commish or any other NFL brass in April. He still brings the same skills he had four years ago to the table, but on the plus side, his body hasn't been beaten into submission and his versatility and willingness to contribute would make him an ideal special teamer or third-down back.
I hope all ex-Hogs get their due shot at professional glory, of course, but I really hope that Curtis gets a legit chance to showcase his wares. He's kept those skills mothballed for too long.