Fans step up for three former Razorbacks in their time of great need

Photo by Arkansas Communications

“Once a Hog, always a Hog.”

It’s a phrase that also applies to pretty much every major college team, but in Arkansas we like to think there’s something extra special about that Razorback affiliation.

Local recruits are often told that if they sign with Arkansas, they will enjoy the adulation of a state where no other Power 5 programs or major professional teams siphon away attention.

The perks of being a Hog extend beyond college, too.

Perhaps that comes through extra networking opportunities that lead to jobs. Sometimes, though, it leads to something much more direct: monetary aid in a time of great need.

In the last few months, at least three former Razorbacks have suffered personal tragedies and disasters. Each time, Razorback fans and other former players have stepped in to donate cash, offer online solace and spread the word. 

The most recent example is Michael Qualls, the former basketball standout whose apartment burned down on Sunday night.

Qualls escaped the raging flames with his baby daughter and girlfriend — but only barely. He suffered severe face burns, but fortunately no injuries were life threatening and his daughter was nearly unscathed. 

A friend set up a GoFundMe account for the family, which lost nearly all possessions from the apartment. On Tuesday, Qualls tweeted: “Almost lost my family but God had other plans!!! Burns and cuts will heal and the house can be replaced. I just ask all my supporters if you can please help donate to me and my family at this tragic time #wps4ever.”

They set a goal of $10,000, but had shot past $11,100 by Friday morning, largely thanks to a $4,128 donation by Qualls’ former teammate Bobby Portis. 

In May, another former Razorback also suffered severe burns. 

De’Anthony Curtis, the former football tailback, was driving to El Dorado from his hometown of Camden with a recently used fire pit and a Gatorade cooler in the bed of his truck. The cooler caught on fire, causing Curtis to stop and go back to check it. 

As he approached, the cooler suddenly exploded. Chunks of fiery plastic severely burned Curtis all over his body and put him in the hospital for 10 days. 

Three hundred and eighty donors, including at least 10 former Hogs like Casey Dick and Grant Cook, raised more than $26,000 for the Curtises in a GoFundMe campaign set up by a friend. The original goal was $15,000.

Fortunately, Curtis has recovered and was back to teaching and coaching at El Dorado High School this fall. Based on his Twitter feed, it looks like much is back to normal. On November 8, he even Tweeted about the Super Bowl favorite New Orleans Saints’ big 38-3 win over Tampa Bay.

In August, Marvin Caston, a director within the Razorback Foundation, started a GoFundMe campaign for his former Hogs’ football teammate, Melvin Bradley. Bradley’s 17-year-old son Zeydan was killed in east Arkansas. 

Caston started the campaign, which raised $11,665 of a $30,000 goal, to help with funeral and other needed expenses. Many former Razorbacks, including Zac Painter, Mark Smith, Jamel Harris, Geno Bell, Chad Abernathy, Grant Garrett, Blake Eddins, Russell Brown and Jeremiah Washburn, donated thousands of dollars and shared their sympathies online or over the phone. 

It would be nice if the Razorback Foundation would set aside funds specifically for former players in times of great need. That’s less likely in these financially-strapped pandemic times, but it’s something to keep in mind for the day when budgets expand again.

Until then, it’s good to see so many folks who don’t just pay lip service to what it means to be part of Razorback Nation.

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