Behind the Scenes Look at the Recruitment of Altee Tenpenny: My SBnation Longform Feature Article

Beating out Alabama for top prospects is a Catch-22 for Arkansas.
Beating out Alabama for top prospects is a Catch-22 for Arkansas.

Author’s Note: I reported the below story during the senior year of Altee Tenpenny’s high school career at North Little Rock.

I’ve spent the last few months interviewing North Little Rock football player Altee Tenpenny and his inner circle about his recruitment.

Tenpenny, of course, has been the subject of plenty discussion in these parts. He committed to Alabama in January 2012, but it always held the door slightly ajar from the Razorbacks to make their case. When Bret Bielema came aboard as Arkansas’ new coach, with a reputation for showcasing top-notch running backs at his previous stint in Wisconsin, Tenpenny allowed that door to creak ever slightly more open.

But Monday night, with a Tweet declaring he was 100% committed to Alabama, Tenpenny slammed the door shut.

This morning, on National Signing Day, he used a pen and fax machine to deadbolt that sucker.

I still think Arkansas fans should pay attention to the story of his recruitment, however. There are so many interlocking parts to the whole process – from the coaches’ spiels, to the parents’ jobs, to the high school coach’s background and the way the media (yes, me included) not only report on this whole crazy carnival but to different degrees actually participate in it.

Every recruit has to deal with similar issues. You hope the teen has people who have his best intentions in mind to deal with a process that only becomes more pressure packed and scrutinized by the year. So, I was heartened to see that Tenpenny has good parents to help him distinguish between emotion-fueled propaganda and reasonable arguments. I know Hog fans don’t like the outcome, but they should still reflect on and pay heed to the process.

Tenpenny’s recruitment represents only the first battle between Bret Bielema’s Arkansas staff and Nick Saban’s Alabama staff. It may be a while before Arkansas can win on the field, but in the recruiting world Arkansas’ first victory could come as early as next February. Josh Frazier, a 6-4, 324-pound junior defensive lineman from Springdale Har-Ber, has offers from Arkansas and Alabama.


Heading into his sophomore season at North Little Rock High School, running back Altee Tenpenny had never heard of a combine.

He didn’t know a summer circuit fitness test could rocket a previously obscure name onto the radar of every major college football program and secure the attention of top college football coaches. However, his high school coaches did, and in June 2010 they encouraged him to attend one. Tenpenny came back with a score of 90.91. “Everybody was looking at me like I did good,” he said. Indeed, at 15 years old, without a minute of varsity football under his belt, the native Arkansan’s score identified him as an elite athlete, the kind that made college football coaches and fans drool.

Read the entire 7,000 word article here.

Altee Tenpenny’s life came a disturbing end years later, as you can see below. I didn’t see any of these signs during my reporting, but then again — I wasn’t looking for them either. I feel terrible for his nice mother and father in Lakewood, who welcomed me into their home and had me sit beside them during games for the interviews.

While most of the big-time college football world has forgotten Tenpenny, those near him never well. RIP, Altee.

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