Like Peyton Holt Himself, Greenwood High Used to Punching Far Above Weight

Grant Morgan, Peyton Holt, Kane Archer, Arkansas football, Greenwood High, Arkansas baseball
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Craven Whitlow / Twitter/Kane Archer

Despite not being among the Natural State’s largest cities, Greenwood produced quite a few significant athletes for both the Arkansas football and Arkansas baseball programs in recent years.

The latest in that line of Bulldogs-turned-Razorbacks is outfielder Peyton Holt, who is a key member of the No. 5 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Now in his second year at Arkansas, Holt is second on the team with a .309 batting average, plus has six home runs, 23 RBIs and numerous highlights in the field.

It’s also fair to say that those numbers don’t fully encompass his importance on this year’s team, which won the SEC West, spent all year ranked in the top five and sits at 43-14 overall entering the postseason.

His story may seem like a script out of Hollywood: high school phenom spurned by bigger programs who signed with a mid-major power, only to be cut before his freshman year, forcing him to play JUCO ball before his triumphant return to Arkansas as a member of the Razorbacks.

However, for Arkansas fans who also cheer for Greenwood High, it’s not particularly surprising. They’ve seen this movie before.

Let’s cue the highlight reel…

The Greenwood to Arkansas Pipeline

Tyler Wilson — Football — Class of 2008

Despite being a four-star recruit in the Class of 2008, Tyler Wilson was originally committed to Tulsa, where he intended to play for an offensive coordinator named Gus Malzahn. For a while, it also looked like LSU would get him. However, upon his hire as the Arkansas football coach, Bobby Petrino got him to flip to the Razorbacks.

Wilson played sparingly early in his career before enjoying a breakout performance in relief of an injured Ryan Mallett at Auburn. He nearly matched eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton blow-for-blow, completing 25 of 34 passes for 332 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, but the Razorbacks came up short.

Taking over as the starter the following year, Wilson led the Razorbacks to an 11-2 season and No. 5 ranking in the final AP Poll of 2011. Rather than enter the NFL Draft, he returned for another year at Arkansas.

The 2012 season was a disaster, with the Razorbacks struggling to a 4-8 record and Wilson battling a concussion, but he was a bright spot and is remembered fondly for his toughness. He ended his career as the UA record holder for career passing yards (7,765), but has since been surpassed by KJ Jefferson.

Drew Morgan — Football — Class of 2013

A coaching change also played a role in Drew Morgan flipping from a Group of Five school to the Razorbacks, but his situation was a bit different. Originally headed to Arkansas State, he signed with Arkansas after Bret Bielema took over the program.

Unlike Wilson, Morgan was not a particularly heralded recruit in the Class of 2013, with some services tabbing him a two-star prospect. However, he earned a spot on special teams as a true freshman and got limited offensive opportunities as a sophomore.

Finally, thanks to multiple injuries to wide receivers early in the 2015 season, Morgan got a real chance to show what he could do as a junior and he made the most of it. He put together one of the best two-year stretches by a receiver in school history, catching 63 and 65 passes in final two seasons. He’s the only player in UA history to have multiple seasons with 60-plus receptions.

Revered for his production despite his size (6-0, 193), Morgan was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2015 and is still tied for eighth on the school’s all-time receptions list with 138.

Grant Morgan — Football — Class of 2016

Like his older brother, Grant Morgan was under recruited coming out of Greenwood High in the Class of 2016. He could have gone to some smaller schools with a scholarship, but instead chose to walk-on at Arkansas.

After redshirting his first year on campus, the younger Morgan quickly asserted himself as a significant contributor on special teams and a reliable rotational player on defense. That was his role for three years and it seemed like it’d remain that way.

However, a lack of depth at linebacker gave him a chance at more meaningful playing time in 2020 and he ran with it. Morgan was one of the leading tacklers in the nation during the pandemic-altered season, finishing with 111 in just nine games. His 12.3 tackles per game were tied for first in the FBS, while his total of 111 was two shy of two players who appeared in 11 games.

Given an extra year of eligibility because of that pandemic, Morgan opted to return to Arkansas as a sixth-year super senior in 2021 and played a key role in the Razorbacks notching their first top-25 finish since Tyler Wilson was under center. That helped him win the Burlsworth Trophy as the country’s top walk-on, although he had earned a scholarship several years earlier.

He racked up 313 tackles during his time in Fayetteville, making him one of 19 players in Arkansas’ 300-tackle club.

Connor Noland — Football/Baseball — Class of 2018

Pursued by multiple college programs for both sports, Connor Noland ultimately chose to stay home and sign to play football and baseball for the Razorbacks in the Class of 2018.

Originally viewed by fans as the savior on the gridiron, he actually started a game at quarterback as a true freshman and led the Hogs to a win over Tulsa. However, his head coach was Chad Morris, the archvillain of recent Arkansas sports history.

Couple that fact with him being a weekend starter and helping the Razorbacks make a run to the College World Series, Noland made the decision to stick with the diamond and stay away from the gridiron. The pandemic wiped out his 2020 season, when he was the Opening Day starter and looked every bit of an ace through three starts, and then injuries contributed to a disappointing junior season in 2021.

As a senior in 2022, Noland finally lived up to his true potential. He was a true ace, compiling a 3.65 ERA and pitching his best on the biggest stage. In four postseason starts on Arkansas’ run to the 2022 College World Series semifinals, he allowed only 5 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings (1.53 ERA).

His final outing in an Arkansas baseball uniform was a Herculean effort that ended in defeat. He allowed just two runs in eight innings, but the Razorbacks lost 2-0 to Ole Miss in a game that would have sent them to the finals.

Next in the Greenwood Pipeline?

There’s been a larger gap than normal following Peyton Holt in the Class of 2019, but the Greenwood-to-Arkansas pipeline may not be completely dried up just yet.

Another pair of brothers in the Greenwood football program have a chance to continue the trend in the next couple of years.

The most notable of the pair is Kane Archer, a quarterback in the 2026 class who made national headlines when he started picking up offers from the likes of Michigan and Missouri as an eighth grader.

Arkansas followed shortly after those other schools and, at least on the high school level, Archer has lived up to the hype so far. Despite being ranked ‘only’ as the 18th-best quarterback in his class by the 247Sports Composite, he showed some flashes of his potential in spot duty as a freshman before taking over as the full-time starter as a sophomore last season.

All he did was complete 73.3% of his passes for 2,399 yards, 33 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, while adding 659 yards and 16 more scores on 103 carries — all while missing 2.5 games with a broken non-throwing hand. He was a Class 6A All-State selection and was named the MVP of the Class 6A state championship game, which Greenwood won 41-23 over Little Rock Christian.

Of course, Kane Archer didn’t do it alone. His older brother, Cash Archer, was also a key contributor on the other side of the ball. The Class of 2025 outside linebacker racked up 78 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 38 quarterback hurries and a whopping 20 sacks.

That’s made him a solid college prospect himself, with offers from the likes of Louisville, Ole Miss and several Group of Five programs. As of this writing, though, he has not been offered by Arkansas.

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