Whether KJ Jefferson’s Arrest Stems from Cover Up or Not, Don’t Forget This

KJ Jefferson, Arkansas football, transfer portal
photo credit: Nick Wenger

The knock on KJ Jefferson this past season at Arkansas was that he often looked too slow, too lethargic, like he never quite extricated his feet from the San Diego sands in which he had trained during the summer.

Well, it turns out that in at least one realm of his life, speed was no issue at all.

On May 18 of last year, KJ Jefferson drove about 113 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone, according to Pig Trail Nation.

“The [reckless driving] charge was not processed until he moved to Orlando to enroll at UCF,” Brandon Helwig, publisher of UCFSports.com, Tweeted. “KJ has been in communication with law enforcement and it was mutually agreed upon that he would return to Arkansas after UCF’s spring game in order to face the charges.”

It’s unclear why the charge wasn’t processed until after the transfer. In this paywalled post on the UCFSports.com forum, Helwig writes the incident was “‘held’ (covered up) until the completion of Arkansas’ football season,” according to a source.

Regardless of the reason for the processing delay, the Razorbacks’ all-time leading passer turned UCF quarterback returned to northwest Arkansas on Tuesday. He paid his fine and was booked into the Washington County jail today:

MISD COMM here means a common misdemeanor, which is the class to which reckless driving belongs. Jefferson was taken into custody at 2:13 p.m. and was released 21 minutes later, according to online records from Washington County, Arkansas. In the record it notes the famously burly 22-year-old is now 266 pounds, up from the 247 pounds at which he’s been listed the last two seasons at Arkansas and now at UCF.

Oh, and it turns out his name is actually “Kenneth,” a detail that some fans may not have known during in his five years on the Hill.

Gus Malzahn, Jefferson’s current head coach, confirmed he knew that his quarterback had flown back to Arkansas to turn himself in. “I have been fully aware of this situation that took place in May 2023 prior to his arrival at UCF,” Malzahn said in a statement. “Since KJ has been here, he’s been a great leader and an exemplary member of our program.”

Trying to Tie KJ Jefferson to Baker Mayfield

The last time such a high-profile college quarterback was arrested in Fayetteville happened in 2017 when Baker Mayfield, then a Heisman Trophy finalist from Oklahoma, was arrested and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest on Dickson Street.

It may be enticing to throw Jefferson into the same situational cell with Baker Mayfield here, as some Arkansas football fans have already done:

But these situations are very, very different.

Mayfield made an utter fool of himself and very deservedly got detained immediately.

According to the police report, “an intoxicated Mayfield first told an officer he was trying to break up an altercation, but that Mayfield later ‘was yelling profanities and causing a scene’ while the officer questioned another man. After Mayfield was tackled, he refused to put his arms behind his back and was eventually forced into handcuffs before being arrested.”

Now, there were plenty of Arkansas football fans who were “yelling profanities and causing a scene” watching KJ Jefferson direct an woefully inept offense last year as he squeezed out a program-record 7,911 passing yards and 67 passing touchdowns. But the struggles were as much on the shoulders of the offensive linemen and Dan Enos although it seems Jefferson certainly could have done less divisive things off the field leading into the season.

Sure, what Jefferson did last May was dangerous. Going 43 miles per hour over the speed limit is almost always a bad idea. But it’s not in the same class of stupidity as what Mayfield indulged in seven years ago.

Obviously, this is a bad look for Jefferson, but it’s important to remember he’s simply paying the consequence for something a full 11 months ago. For the most part, he’s looking good in his new home as the starting quarterback. He made his official debut for the Knights in the UCF Spring Game last Friday. He completed only 12 of 22 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

KJ Jefferson Speaks

As far the legal process goes, this is just beginning of the formal process which will include a plea agreement and three days of community service.

As easy as it is to pile onto Jefferson at a moment like this, it’s a good moment to remember how he’s served the northwest Arkansas community and Razorback fan base already. Just like with Eric Musselman, the end didn’t go as planned. But that shouldn’t erase the good times that came before.

Jefferson is clearly frustrated with folks spinning this out into something bigger than it is. “Why y’all on my nuts!” he exclaims in the video below.

Hear him explain more about his arrest in the video below:

YouTube video

YouTube video

More about KJ Jefferson’s complicated legacy with Arkansas football here:

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