There’s an old adage that, in sports, elite performers aren’t supposed to linger on the “what-if’s” that invariably happen in a part of life where success is impossible 100% of the time.
This tired line of thinking holds that athletes should immediately forget about bad plays whenever they happen, and just march right on with nary a backward glance. The problem with this outlook, though, is that the athlete is not a machine; he or she is not forever locked in the present moment and concerned only with performing.
Athletes are, of course, human – they come at their craft with passion and emotion, the things that drove them to the fields as youths and, if all goes right, will one day bring them back with their grandkids. Regret is a natural result when you care deeply but fall short, and that is something is that Arkansas football player Trey Knox has known well this week in the aftermath of the Razorbacks’ close loss to Liberty.
Trey Knox Sets the Record Straight
Knox caught two passes, both for touchdowns, in the 21-19 setback, but the one play he can’t get out of his mind happened in the second quarter when the Razorbacks were down 14-0 but knocking at the door at Liberty’s 26 yard line. KJ Jefferson threw a pass down the seam to a streaking Knox, but it ended up in the hands of Liberty’s Daijahn Anthony for an interception. Liberty would then take it back down to go up 21-0 with a touchdown of its own that proved to be the difference in the game.
Many subsequent game recaps, such as this one by 5 News, reported that Jefferson’s pass “bounced” off Knox’s hand.
But that’s not how it went down, Knox recently said “The Zone” on The Buzz 103.7 FM. As the ball was descending, Anthony “came and tipped the ball and smacked my hand down at the same time so there just wasn’t anything I could do.” He added: “I ain’t going to lie, that dude, he made a heck of a play.”
Trey Knox also said on Tuesday that the play was haunting him a bit. “I don’t really talk about it because I still have a sour taste in my mouth about it. And I’ve still been losing sleep about that play, and just imagining what could have happened in the game if I did make that catch, and things went differently.”
In a press conference on Tuesday, Knox provided more details on the pivotal sequence: “You know we had bad spacing on that play. The corner came off and he made a heck of a play. I’ve got to give him props. He’s on scholarship too, for a reason. He made a play, tipped the ball. Just unfortunate circumstances.”
“But I’ve still got to make that play. Or at least get the ball down and not let it fall in his hands.”
Arkansas vs LSU Up Next
A week after losing to a Top 25 team it was widely expected to beat, the Arkansas football team now gets a chance to redeem itself against a Top 10 team to which it’s expected to lose. For Arkansas to beat LSU, however, it’s going to need Knox and other play-makers to show up in the first half as well as the second.
How Arkansas comes out of the blocks on Saturday could mean the difference between the win of the season so far vs another disappointing failure. “I think another thing is we’ve just got to be able to bring our own juice,” Knox said on Tuesday. “I think we do a lot of waiting at times, waiting on somebody to make a play, or waiting for somebody to do something good that gives us energy, when we’ve got to be juice boxes ourselves on the sideline or before the game. Just getting pumped up and getting in that zone.”
“I think that we struggle with that at times. Just trying to correct that, getting happy in practice and, you know, letting the leaders lead. I think that’s a big thing that we’ve been focusing on, letting the leaders talk, letting the leaders being along other teammates and bring juice and energy to the whole team.”
It’s concerning that it’s so late in the season and getting up for the start of games is still an issue, but there’s still hope for an attitude upgrade. That, Knox says, entails “getting happy in practice and letting the leaders lead. I think that’s a big thing that we’ve been focusing on, letting the leaders talk, letting the leaders being along other teammates and bring juice and energy to the whole team.”
Simeon Blair added: “You can’t go out there on Saturday and be excited for a game if you haven’t done the preparation for the week. The preparation gives you the confidence to play on Saturday so you can go out there and have fun. The only way we can fix that is we go and we prepare way more than we did last week.”
“You can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome. We just have to keep evolving, keep watching film and keep preparing to the best of our ability.”
Sometimes, however, good preparation means letting the pain from a “what-if” play burn a little longer than some think it should. That’s the kind of passion that Arkansas football fans will take all day over apathy.