McKinney talks about redshirt Razorback season
Davyon “Sleepy” McKinney officially became an Arkansas Razorback last February.
That’s when McKinney, a 6’3” 180-pound wide receiver, with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, signed his letter of intent to play football for Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks.
He made his verbal commitment to Arkansas the previous summer, and held tight to his dream of becoming a Razorback. He chose Arkansas over Ole Miss and Tulsa.
McKinney became the third Forrest City athlete to sign with Arkansas since 2007, when former Mustang basketball player Marcus Britt signed and former Mustang baseball player Barrett Astin followed in 2009.
Just minutes before last February’s signing, McKinney was visibly nervous – and for those who know him, that was rare since the word nervous has never really been in his vocabulary.
McKinney is anything but nervous now, having completed his first full football season at Arkansas – albeit as a redshirt freshman – which was fine with him.
As a redshirt freshman, McKinney was able to practice with the Razorbacks, and dress for games and travel with the team, but could not compete during games as an on-field athlete.
A redshirt student athlete has up to five academic years to use the four years of eligibility, thus becoming a fifth-year senior.
Back in Forrest City following last Friday’s Cotton Bowl Game, McKinney, who also played basketball for Dwight Lofton’s Mustangs and ran track for Donnie Willis, was at Tuesday night’s home basketball game and returned to Mustang Arena Wednesday to give to the current crop of Mustang players and frmer teammates, a little insight into what it means to be a college scholarship athlete on a daily basis.
“This first year at Arkansas really gave me a great inside look at how important being in class, taking care of your grades and being on the practice field is,” McKinney said Wednesday. “You have to take care of your studies as well as your athletic commitment to the school. You know, during the recruiting process, you’re all geeked and everything is fun and all good. But once you sign and get on campus, you become the school’s property and you have to grow up and take responsibility. I feel like now, part of that responsibility for myself, is to give back to the community where I grew up.”
His maturity process has grown since beginning his Arkansas Razorback career.
“I’ve grown up a lot, being away from home, not having my Momma around, going to school, it’s been tough,” McKinney said. “My Momma (Doris Banks) calls me almost every night. I know she misses me, but she knows deep down I can’t come back. She just wants to know I’m all right and that I’m doing the right things ... the things she taught me.”
McKinney said the 13 redshirt players this past season shared a common and special bond.
“We were there to encourage each other on the field and in the classroom,” McKinney said. “Just to make sure no one quit. If you can make it through your first season as a redshirt, then you’re all right, you can make it. I was cool with being redshirted. I knew going in there was that possibility. And then when they decided to switch me to defense, I knew it was a done deal.”
Instead of being used as a receiver, it now appears McKinney will settle in on defense, most likely as a safety for the Razorbacks, getting to work with new Arkansas defensive coordinator and former Ohio State assistant coach Paul Haynes.
Which is fine with McKinney.
“Right now the coaches are thinking safety or corner is where I need to be,” McKinney added. “We will graduate two free safeties and two corners, which opens up plenty of chances for me. Coach Haynes is a great guy and so is coach (Paul) Petrino. They have already connected with the offensive and defensive players. That bond has already been created.”
As a corner, McKinney would work closely with Arkansas assistant coach Bobby Allen. As a safety, McKinney would work with Haynes.
With a full season under his belt, McKinney will have an edge headed into the 2012 year.
“Being a freshman, you have to learn the plays, know the plays and you have to know how the system works,” McKinney said. “So that gives me an edge. I have learned how the system works. But, if a freshman comes in this next year and he works faster than me, then I’ll tip my hat to him. That’s just the business.”
And McKinney said he has learned that life is not all about fun and games at college.
“It’s all about business and the choices you make as an individual,” McKinney said. “And if you make one bad decision, it might cost you an education and the chance to continue as a college athlete. I’m very aware of taking the right steps, and I’m very aware of the people I hang with. I need to be associated with great people to create a great bond.”
At Forrest City, McKinney became somewhat of a role model for the younger kids who knew him simply as “Sleepy.” Nothing has changed since moving on to Fayetteville.
“It was that way to an extent at Forrest City. Now, as a Razorback, I realize that I actually am a role model,” McKinney added. “Especially to the little kids who come up and hug me and tell me how much they miss me, some of them I’ve never seen before. They know I’m trying to do something positive, hopefully in someone’s life. That makes me feel great inside.”
Dressing with the team and being on the sidelines during Arkansas’ Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State, finishing 11-2 and fifth in the nation also made McKinney feel great.
“No doubt,” McKinney said. “What a great season, and we know we will be ranked fifth to start next season. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
During his junior season with the Forrest City Mustangs, McKinney caught 45 passes for 970 yards and 15 touchdowns.
As a senior, McKinney was named to the Class 5A All-State team and to the 5A-East All-Conference team for the third consecutive year.
He finished the season with 17 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns.