Arkansas’ 29-Year-Old WR Earning Big Minutes Would Mean Only One Thing

Monte Harrison, MLB, Miami Marlins, Arkansas football
photo credit: Marlins

Arkansas fans, stay pumped. Last week, news broke that the Razorbacks will have a 29-year-old playing wide receiver this fall! 

Man, 29. Don’t break a hip, grandpa! Right? Right!?

Former professional baseball player Monte Harrison committed to play for the Hogs and likely became the most high-profile walk-on in Arkansas football history.

Harrison just finished his baseball career over the winter after being released by the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He played for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds last year and hit .208. Before that, he had three separate stints in the Majors, playing 41 games with the Marlins in 2020 and 2021 and another nine with the Angels in 2022.

Harrison has sparked a fascination with people just above the Average Joe line when it comes to sports awareness. The story certainly feels like one that would capture the audience’s imagination. And 30 years ago, when people watched Major League Baseball, it might have. Maybe. A guy who grabbed a cup of coffee in the Bigs isn’t a household name even among those of us who follow the sport with a grueling intensity. I couldn’t name 10 NFL players right now, but if you had me hitting .750 on every MLB team’s 40-man roster, take the over.

The Uniqueness of Monte Harrison

Some of this is because of the inevitable hype that comes roaring through when something this unique happens. 

Harrison’s high school basketball coach has seen enough freakishly athletic feats from his one-time star in recent years to tell Richard Davenport, the Arkansas football recruiting reporter, this: “I found it hard to believe you’re going to find four better athletes on the University of Arkansas football team than that dude. I can tell you this, Monte Harrison is not coming down there to back anyone up.”

That’s all good and well. But let’s be honest. Harrison isn’t going to actually play meaningful snaps at Arkansas. Sure, he may get some snaps here or there – the Razorbacks open against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which is a perfect opportunity to have Harrison accustom himself to college football – but a 29-year-old man who hasn’t played competitive football in more than a decade is simply not going to suddenly hop into the slot down-in and down-out, grab 35 balls for 400 yards and a couple scores. 

If he does, Arkansas is in line for a two-win season because their wide-receiving corps is that bad. An awesome season for Harrison would be six or seven catches for 50-something yards and a touchdown. The smart money is on zero statistics offensively, though leaving open the possibility of someone with his speed playing on punt or kickoff coverage.

It’s hard to understand why Harrison is choosing to return to the sport of his youth. He’s old enough to know he isn’t going to compete with Gen Z for actual playing time. Perhaps he doesn’t care. Hopefully. That would be incredibly admirable. It’s about time Millennials learned the world has lost their use of them, anyway

But seriously, the real hope is that Harrison just wants to keep his competitive fires burning. He isn’t taking up a scholarship – school is being paid for as part of a stipulation in his professional baseball contract – so why shouldn’t Arkansas take a flier?

Know that we aren’t talking about Renard Allen here. Allen was a 32-year-old who starred for Arkansas Tech basketball in 2010, doing so much with the Wonder Boys that Tech earned a No. 1-seed in the Division II NCAA Tournament after a 29-1 regular season. Division II. Not Division I. Not the SEC. Allen also wasn’t toiling in another sport when not playing college basketball in his 20s. He was staying active in the sport of basketball and the right people recognized him.

From Pro Baseball to Arkansas Football

We aren’t talking about Robby Hampton, either. Hampton spent just four years playing professional baseball, never above the Low-A level, before quitting the sport and joining Arkansas to play quarterback. Quarterbacks of the 1990s were not exactly teeming with athleticism. Hampton was asked to throw a football and have decent footwork. Not run routes at full speed. He was OK, actually, too, throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in the 2000 season. 

The most apt Harrison comp is former Arkansas linebacker D’vone McClure. If Harrison can achieve what McClure did – and we mean on the field, not off it – then the story that editors hope will rivet the masses will have been worth it. 

McClure left the Cleveland organization after four years of professional baseball, too, like Hampton, and like Hampton, he didn’t eclipse Low-A ball. A Jacksonville, Ark., native, the former Tribe farmhand finished 10th on the team in tackles in the 2018 season, registering 26, just three short of a freshman teammate named Bumper Pool, who would ultimately become the school’s all-time leader in tackles. The next season, he slid down the depth chart and was out of football by 2020.

Harrison will likely avoid McClure’s ultimate fate before contact was lost. He’s older and more mature. He’s made more money, too, since he made the majors and was chosen in the second round of the draft. Indeed, Harrison’s career earnings come in at nearly $2.6 million, including a $1.8 million signing bonus.

Money, of course, isn’t the main object with college football. Not for most players, anyway. It’s hard to believe a guy who has been out of the sport for 10 years is trying to cash-in on the NIL buzz, either. If his schooling is free, too, then it’s not as though football is paying for the education, suggesting that, yes, in fact, Harrison just wants to play the game.

Good for him. And good for Arkansas, actually. The Razorbacks need all the positive PR they can get in that sport. Monte Harrison has shown that few minor leaguers can match his leaping ability in the outfield. I’m afraid to say making this jump, however, won’t be nearly as comfortable.


Check out home highlights of new Arkansas walk-on wide receiver Monte Harrison:

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