Jersey numbers don’t become iconic in Arkansas all that often.
The Arkansas football program made Clyde Scott’s No. 12 and Brandon Burlsworth’s No. 77 obvious, noteworthy legacies. Those two numbers are the only ones in retirement for the Hogs, but that doesn’t mean 98 others lack panache.
Treylon Burks spent the last three years ensuring that No. 16 would be remembered. The prolific receiver not only inked a guaranteed rookie deal this week, but confirmed that he will be wearing that same familiar jersey number from Fayetteville for the Tennessee Titans, too.
Burks, of course, is being heavily counted upon in Nashville. The Titans pulled a draft-night stunner when they dealt their star pass-catcher, A.J. Brown, to Philadelphia to move up for the Burks pick.
Which, of course, was No. 16.
And now another touted, electric in-state prospect perhaps wants to “build the brand,” to use common parlance. Isaiah Sategna, the four-star receiver/sprinter from Fayetteville High, expressed his interest recently in taking the number next in an interview with Ty Hudson.
The Identity of Digits and Arkansas Football
Number-player associations are big in a little state like Arkansas. Even with only the two numbers actually retired, Arkansas football lore is heavy with players who took whatever was emblazened across their backs and made it memorable.
Darren McFadden wore No. 5 all the way back at Oak Grove High School, where he caught national attention as a two-way phenom in the early 2000s. From there, he authored a three-year collegiate career (2005-07) where he twice won the Doak Walker, twice finished second in the Heisman, and obliterated school and SEC rushing records.
He did it with such speed and flair that the “5” gained mystique quickly. Over that charmed time in the Ozarks, D-Mac’s jersey number got a lot of air time as he blasted through seams.
This one, for me, remains the most memorable of his many, many sprints to pay dirt:
If you stood in the stands for any of his games, you saw something magic, and that digit was often a blur. His successors to the position clearly respected the work, as Rakeem Boyd shined in the leanest years, and now Rocket Sanders clearly evokes D-Mac’s punishing style.
Other jersey numbers of note consistently bring old Hogs to mind. Matt Jones brought No. 9 into prominence prior to McFadden, and a litany of great Razorbacks have donned 3 or 22 or 34.
Dan Hampton and Steve Atwater both made lasting impressions—largely on opposing ball carriers—en route to the NFL Hall of Fame. Hampton’s yielded his 86 as a Hog for a Chicago Bear 99, though; Atwater kept No. 27 from Fayetteville on his way to Denver.
Few connections are as strong as Burks’ new link to 16, though. And after a shaky first day of camp, the NFL rookie seems ready to establish himself and his number on the biggest stage.
Treylon Burks Trying to “Re-Brand” the Number
The “16” in the NFL isn’t commonly plastered on the No. 1 wideout’s togs. Unquestionably, Joe Montana ranks as the most prestigious pro to wear the number, but even that legend was in a different digit in college:
Because 16 has been the dominion of quarterbacks over the years, Montana, Len Dawson, and part-time punter George Blanda wore it. In recent years, some receivers like Seattle’s Tyler Lockett managed to make it a receiver-compatible number.
Burks, though, seems to be the only one sticking with the numerical horse that brought him, so to speak. He wore 13 at Warren High but arrived in Fayetteville to find that one taken by then-senior Deon Stewart. So he selected “16” and made history with it. And it’s realistically quite difficult to assess the measure of Burks’ accomplishments for a couple of obvious reasons.
In 2019, Burks came in to rescue a moribund Chad Morris offense. Thanks to woeful, indecisive quarterbacking and general ineptitude, he never scored as a freshman despite 475 yards on 29 grabs.
In 2020, Burks missed one of the ten scheduled SEC games. Without benefit of non-conference patsies to inflate his stats, Burks still logged seven receiving scores and 820 yards.
Burks’ 2021 campaign mirrored the Hogs’ flourishing. His 1,104 receiving yards were third-best in Hog single-season history, and he tied the single-season mark of 11 touchdown grabs. Had he played in the Outback Bowl, he might’ve forced himself into a tie for the most 100-yard games ever (11, Anthony Lucas), or perhaps nudged into second place behind Cobi Hamilton for single-season yardage.
Yet doubters still exist, and when Burks was unable to finish his first practice, they started flooding social media. Anytime a team swaps out its best talent at one position for an untested rookie, the expectations balloon accordingly.
It’s sort of insulting, too, a point that Deadspin properly underscored, to draw such extreme conclusions. Though selected 16th overall, as this NFL Draft’s receiver depth was historically unmatched, Burks was only the sixth pass-catcher off the board so the motivation for him to outperform not just Brown, but all of his classmates, should be ample.
Isaiah Sategna’s Commitment Solidifies Pittman’s Chops
While Sam Pittman obviously figured heavily into Burks’ ascent to first-round gem, Chad Morris does warrant credit for securing the Warren product. Sategna, however, represents a big-time entry into the fold.
The offspring of two gifted tracksters, Sategna dominated the state track and field championships this year. He’s a different type of receiver than Burks, comparable more to former Arkansas football star Jarius Wright in build and skill set.
If transfer Jadon Haselwood also thrives in the Kendal Briles attack, then Burks’ production might be more replaceable than originally thought. Wright, Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Chris Gragg unified Bobby Petrino’s 2008 class, but Haselwood was a five-star out of high school and Sategna is, like Burks, the top-rated Arkansan in his class.
For a guy who loves the thrill and challenge of taking down wild game in the woods, Burks presumably doesn’t mind the pressure foisted upon his shoulders in Tennessee. And if Sategna ends up pairing his world-class speed with No. 16, too, then expect those familiar red and white jerseys to keep selling.
(Author’s Projections for Sategna in 2022: 40 receptions, 653 yards, six touchdowns. WPS.)
Sam Pittman on Isaiah Sategna
The Arkansas football coach recently hopped onto The Buzz 103.7 FM’s “The Zone” and shared his thoughts on Sategna’s potential role with the team in 2022. For one, Pittman believes Sategna could absolutely crack the rotation as a true freshman. “I mean, he’s got speed. He’s really, really well coached,” he said.
Pittman added that Sategna was well schooled in high school playing for former Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick. “I mean, really, really well coached, played at the highest level of football here in the state of Arkansas. Obviously, comes from a coaching background. Mother was an All-American in track*. So yeah, I think, certainly. I had Andrew Thomas when I was at Georgia. He moved three positions and started as a true freshman and came in June. Then he played three years and was the fourth pick in the draft. But yes, it can be done. If it can be done at offensive line, it sure as heck can be done at wide receiver.”
*Sategna’s mother, Dahlia, was a star sprinter at LSU and participated in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. His father, Mario, was a three-time All-American decathlete and 1995 NCAA champion.