On the surface, the Razorbacks-Red Wolves has been one defined by conflict and the potential for conflict. For decades, the dominant theme surrounding the two schools has been why they don’t play in football, and to what degree it would divide the state if they did.
Through the thousands of debates which have transpired on the topic, often overlooked are the bonds between the two programs. Naturally, Razorback and Red Wolves who know each other from high school (e.g. Hunter Henry and Fredi Knighten) keep up and root for each other. Former Hogs coach Bret Bielema and current A-State coach Blake Anderson were friendly, and Chad Morris has kept that up. Finally, the two schools’ athletic directors, Hunter Yurachek and Terry Mohajir, are friends who regularly chat.
For years, though, it seemed like the programs’ fans were at each others’ throats. That changed this week. In the wake of the death of Blake Anderson’s wife, Wendy Anderson, Razorbacks of all stripes opened their hearts to the Anderson family and to the Red Wolves nation as a whole. It has been the strongest display of solidarity ever shown between the two programs.
“Blake and his family are definitely in our thoughts and prayers,” Chad Morris said on Tuesday at the LR Touchdown Club. “I talked to Coach in early June. It just breaks your heart. A lot of people across our great state are praying for him, his family and their team at this time.”
Morris also sent out the following Tweet in the aftermath of the passing of Wendy Anderson, who had been battling breast cancer for two years.
Paula and I cannot express our condolences enough to Coach Anderson and his entire family. To say our thoughts are with you is an understatement. Thank you for being an example of light in a moment of darkness. #NotFightingAlone https://t.co/M14tcLiUxN— Chad Morris (@coachchadmorris) August 20, 2019
Hunter Yurachek, in a sympathy Tweet of his own, wrote: “The @ArkRazorbacks family is keeping the @AStateRedWolves family in our thoughts and prayers today.”
In 2002-2004, Blake Anderson was the assistant coach of Joe Craddock, now the Hog’s offensive coordinator, when Craddock quarterbacked Middle Tennessee State. Anderson recruited Craddock to play there.
I would not be standing here in front of you today without Blake Anderson giving me a shot to play college football,” Craddock said on Wednesday. “It’s really sad to see that happen, and Mrs. Wendy was a great person. I remember her through the recruiting process. I remember her being around a lot with the team. My heart goes out for Coach. He found me at Briarwood Christian, a little small school south of Birmingham and gave me a shot to play quarterback. I owe him a lot.”
“Me and my family have said a lot of prayers for his family. Coach [Anderson] has taught me a whole lot through this process with his courage, how he’s handled this whole situation. We wish them nothing but the best. I know Coach will bounce back and go through the grieving process and all that stuff. But it’s really sad. We’re continuing to pray for the Anderson family and hopefully, everything will pass. Miss Wendy fought hard. She fought really, really hard. And we love them. I love Coach Anderson to death, hopefully, he’ll bounce back.”
Arkansas media and fans have also poured out their thoughts and prayers. Lanny Beavers, the founder of the biggest Razorback fan forum Hogville.net, wrote: “ASU Football Coach Blake Anderson lost his wife last night Wendy to Cancer. Our thoughts and Prayers for the ASU family, I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
One fan, who goes by the alias “lakecityhog,” provided insight into why the Andersons are so beloved in northeast Arkansas: “My daughter was in the ICU in mid January and one night while waiting for visiting hours I bumped into Coach Anderson. He was there with his wife. He talked to me about Megan and wished us the best. He had a lot to deal with on his own but he took the time to encourage me and my family. I wish nothing but the best for him and his family.”
The outpouring on Razorback Facebook fan pages has been just as impressive. Here’s one from from the page “Razorback Nation”:
And one from “Wooo Pig Soooie:
And two from “Razorback Country”:
It goes on and on, Razorback fans opening their hearts to a special family in Jonesboro and putting aside any hard feelings they have towards the state’s second-largest football program. If you unfamiliar with what Wendy Anderson meant to that community and to the team, make sure you watch this feature:
Wendy Anderson will not be forgotten.
Perhaps her most important contributions may never publicly be known, as they were for her family, loved ones and the people she inspired. But, on a public level, she did something few people in recent memory have been able to accomplish.
She brought the entire state of Arkansas, with its rivalries real and imagined, together.