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Keep the history alive!
It was the fall of 1965 with the Hogs just coming off of a national championship, when a young freshman hailing from Horatio in Sevier County had just arrived to become one of the faceless freshmen on campus in Fayetteville. He had intended to major in pre-med, but later changed to sociology and psychology. Although he had never played high school football, it was one of his main loves. His former high school was destined to become integrated the year after his graduation which would have allowed him to take part in athletics, but he missed it by just one year. He had tried to convince his mother to let him repeat his senior year, so he could finally participate in football. She was an educator and would have no part in that scheme, so it was off to Fayetteville and his studies instead.
Not long after arriving on campus, he made his way down the “Hill,” to the old corrugated steel, dirt floored, poorly lit Barnhill Fieldhouse. Accordingly, he entered and promptly announced that he was Darrell Brown and that he wanted to play football. He had only one thing on his mind, and that was to play Razorback football as one of the members of the Hog football squad.
In 1965 this must have caught the equipment managers by surprise. For not only had the Hogs been undefeated in 1964, they were also the reigning national champions, and they were all white. Add to this, the fact that Darrell Brown was not white.
"He also ran back kickoffs which opened him up to the opportunity for “special hits” against this freshman."
Back then, freshmen couldn’t play on the varsity. They had their own team the “Shoats” and would play a reduced schedule. They also were designated to be blocking and tackling dummies for the upper classmen as they would mimic the opposing teams during varsity practice.
As a Razorback, Brown played his football at tailback and cornerback. He also ran back kickoffs which opened him up to the opportunity for “special hits” against this freshman. Although he never played a down for the varsity, he did practice with them through the fall of 1965 and the spring of 1966 until a thumb and knee injury ended his playing career.
During his Razorback career, Brown was assigned to live in Humphreys Hall, which was a men’s freshmen dorm instead of the athletic dorm known as Wilson-Sharp.
Food for Humphreys Hall was provided by Brough Commons instead of the usual all-you-can-eat steaks, potatoes, eggs, etc. normally reserved for varsity players at Wilson-Sharp. Oftentimes he would not be able to get from the practice field, up the “Hill,” to Brough in time for supper before they closed. This led to quite a few missed meals only adding to his frustration. Eventually he was able to make friends with the cooking and serving staff, who made it a point to save him plates of food after they had closed for the night. During the fall and spring, he was able to get by following this regimen. However, when the injuries came, he knew it was time to move on.
Years later in 1969 during the week before the “Big Shootout,” Brown would again be injured. This time it wasn’t on the football field, but by a shooter’s bullet to the leg while jogging on campus the night before the "Big Shootout" with Texas on December 6.
Although he had wanted to be the first black football player at the University of Arkansas, he had now broken through the color barrier and in a few moments opened the Razorback football team to African-American players. (NOTE: It wasn’t until the fall of 1966 when John Hill Westbrook became the first black varsity player to play for a SWC team in an afternoon game on September 10, 1966, in which Baylor defeated Syracuse. Jerry Levias of SMU is often credited with this, but their game was played that night. He was, however, the first black scholarship player in the SWC.)
The “Big Shootout” was not only the last game of the ’69 season, or the final game of the initial 100 years for NCAA football, but it had now brought an end to the all-white Arkansas Razorback and Texas Longhorn teams. The next season would see the emergence of African-American running back Jon Richardson of Arkansas and offensive tackle Julius Whittier for the Longhorns as varsity players. The all-white barrier for scholarship players had now crumbled. It was a new day. It was the beginning of a new century for football. In the years since contributions have been many, but they all started with that freshman from Horatio.