by Mark Carter
Growing up in Rison, young Danny West would read aloud for his grandfather the content of each new issue of Hawgs Illustrated, the fan publication from Clay Henry.
“Every time a new issue would come in the mail, he would tell me, ‘Sit down right there and read that book out loud,’” West says. “He would say it was to help me practice reading. He loved the Hogs and absolutely loved keeping up with recruiting. It’s kind of weird to think back on now, but that’s probably where my interest in recruiting began.”
That recruiting interest foreshadowed what would become his career path. West, now 34, handles recruiting news for HawgSports.com. As recruiting news evolved into a significant component to reporting about college sports, he became well known among Arkansas sports fans.
Biddy is the face of the HawgSports brand, but West fuels the site’s engine through his reporting on Razorback football and basketball recruiting. He helped build the site into the top college team site in the state and one of the fastest growing in the nation. He also provides recruiting updates weekly on Little Rock radio station 103.7 The Buzz and joins Biddy for the Hawg Hustle podcast on The Buzz network as well as the HawgSports Live podcast.
In a business where breaking news is premium, West says it’s better to be right than first. But it’s best if you can be both, he adds.
“We’ve been able to be both a lot through the years, and I think that’s a result of the connections and relationships we’ve built,” he says. “I think Hog fans appreciate the hard work and dedication we provide, but there’s also a lot to be said for us being from this state and relating to common fans from all four corners. Our message board, The Razor’s Edge, has always been the difference maker. I liken it to being at the deer camp with all of your buddies. You know there will be a lot of great stories, great conversations, sometimes there might be a fight, but we’re all there for the same reason — to hang out with like-minded people and voice our opinion on the Hogs.”
Biddy’s path to HawgSports ran through a Georgia pecan grove; for West, it was a Springdale chemical factory. Though a proud native of Rison, West moved to Northwest Arkansas when he was 18. He met his future wife at Northwest Arkansas Community College, married early and went to work full time.
West met Biddy in the summer of 2005 at a voluntary Razorback football workout on campus.
“This wasn’t an actual practice, but a player-led workout where they’re basically just running plays and throwing the ball around,” he says. “Back in those days, anyone could just show up and walk right in to watch the guys work out. I was already a paying member of HawgSports, so I walked over to Trey and introduced myself. Trey was the only reporter there, and I was the only other person in attendance that day, so it didn’t take long to realize that he loved this stuff just as much as I did.
I would always post my own practice observations on his message board, and a few years later he asked me to become an intern — unpaid, for the record. For about 18 months, my job was to cover baseball and dip into recruiting anytime an opportunity presented itself. I did this while working a full-time job at a factory.”
In the summer of 2011, the site’s full-time recruiting writer left for another job, and Biddy had an important spot to fill with football season looming.
“I’ll never forget the exact moment he called to offer me the job,” West says. “It was well over 100 degrees in the factory that day. I was carrying two 40-pound buckets of chemicals when I heard my phone ringing. I was pretty happy to get out of that factory and get right to work with Trey.
“I had a decent-paying factory job, but it wasn’t a job that I ever envisioned myself doing for the rest of my life. So, I took a very non-traditional route and just taught myself how to write by reading well-known sports reporters. Some of my buddies used to say that I got lucky in getting this job, but they weren’t the ones working 45 to 55 hours a week while covering three, four, five baseball games a week for free. There was a little work involved along with that luck.”
West loves to hear from new subscribers who tell him they had no idea what they’d been missing.
“We take pride in going the extra mile for the people who allow us to do this for a living,” he says. “We take that very seriously, because we could very easily be on a pecan farm or in a chemical factory.”