David Bazzel scooted through the lobby of Simmons Bank building in Little Rock’s River Market area with one sleeve of his sport coat dangling to reveal a shoulder brace from a recent surgery. He wore black Nike track pants and black Nike running shoes to match. It was fitting attire as he hurried through the crowd to the podium.
Bazzel, the former Arkansas football star and co-host of the morning radio show, “Show with No Name,” on 103.7 the Buzz, was excited. After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Little Rock Touchdown Club returns for its 17th year, and it returns with a bang. Bazzel was very creative with his lineup, and it will be a season members won’t forget with a blast of Arkansas Razorbacks flavor and a touch of hall of fame personalities.
I expected a few former coaches with high profiles, maybe recently fired ones, to appear on the slate, but it is instead peppered with many former players. You can find the complete list here. But the lineup is powerful and loaded with national names and some intertwine with local connections. The following is a list of my five favorites, which I think are the must-see meetings.
1. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Quarterback (Tuesday, Sept. 14)
Bradshaw is one of the great NFL quarterbacks of all-time helping lead the Steelers of the 1970s to four Super Bowls. Not only that, but Bradshaw has gained an entire new legion of fans thanks to his longtime appearance on the NFL pregame show on Fox as well as movie and TV roles. He’s an NFL icon, and he is funny and adept at spinning a yarn. He’s got my vote for one of the great all-time guests in the history of the club.
2. Verne Lundquist, Former legendary CBS college football, NFL and golf broadcaster (Monday, Aug. 30)
Another huge national personality. While Lundquist isn’t a player or coach, he is one of the top play-by-play announcers in the history of televised sports. While he has volumes of material to cover from his days of covering the SEC and NFL for CBS, I hope he at least saves a few minutes for a golf story or two. While admittedly I am not an avid golfer, I enjoy watching golf, and Lundquist was the best.
3. Matt Jones, Former Arkansas star quarterback, and Eli Manning, former Ole Miss and New York Giants star quarterback (Monday, Oct. 4)
What a brilliant idea by Bazzel to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Arkansas at Ole Miss seven-overtime game than with this duo.
In Jones, you have an Arkansas cult favorite, who rarely makes appearances. In Manning, you have a future NFL hall of famer, who won two Super Bowls and is part of the “first family of football.” That seven-OT game was one of the most memorable in Hogs history, and to have these two players breaking it down and telling stories about it is absolutely remarkable.
It says a lot about Manning that he will come to Little Rock to talk about a game his team lost.
4. Cliff Harris (former OBU and Dallas Cowboys hall-of-fame safety) and Drew Pearson (former Dallas Cowboys hall-of-fame wide receiver)
Harris gets a fitting homecoming celebration following his induction in the NFL Hall of Fame last week. Who better to commemorate the event than Harris’ teammate, Pearson, who also was inducted into the HOF last week. These guys are class all the way and will have some good stories. If you are a Cowboys fan (and I know there are many that still aren’t ashamed to admit that), you’ll want to be there for this one. (Monday, Oct. 25)
5. Vince Young, former Texas star quarterback and NFL veteran (Tuesday, Sept. 7)
Timing is everything, and bringing a Longhorns star to Little Rock the week of Arkansas’ nonconference tussle with Texas will be fantastic.
Young led the No. 7-ranked Longhorns to a 22-20 win at Arkansas in 2004. Young, who went on to lead Texas to the 2005 national championship, was 11-for-22 with 150 yards and two TDs in the game. His 13-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Benson with 9:30 to go in the third quarter gave the Longhorns a 22-17 lead they were able to hang on to.
That was the last time Texas played at Fayetteville. His appearance and memories of that game will be a good way to kick off game week.