ARLINGTON, Texas — Today won’t be the first time University of Arkansas running back Dominique Johnson has played in AT&T Stadium, but it will be a much different atmosphere than he initially experienced.
Johnson, a sophomore from Crowley, Texas, was 8 or 9 years old when his PeeWee team played in AT&T Stadium.
“We played on Saturdays, a real PeeWee game,” Johnson said. “Multiple teams from all over come to play at the stadium.”
Today is also Saturday, but there will be just one game played at AT&T Stadium and it’s big boy SEC football.
The No. 16 Razorbacks are playing No. 7 Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. in the CBS national showcase telecast.
“It’s going to be a completely different atmosphere,” Johnson said. “I’m really excited to be able to play with my teammates at a real college level with real fans against another ranked team and try to take them down.”
Johnson is among 23 players from Texas on the Arkansas roster, and most are contributing on offense, defense or special teams.
“It’s such a big game obviously being from Texas, and recruiting wise, as well,” said Bumper Pool, a senior linebacker from Lucas, Texas. “I think it brings a great atmosphere, and honestly whenever you get that many Arkansas fans in Dallas, it just creates a buzz and grows that reach that Arkansas has.”
Pool also knows a lot of Aggies.
“I have so many friends from my high school that went to A&M,” he said. “Same thing with Texas.”
The Razorbacks (3-0) beat Texas 40-21 two weeks ago in Fayetteville.
“I’ve been on the phone with a lot of Texas kids in the ’23 class recently, and the win over Texas has really helped us,” Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. “It’s a big state. The University of Texas can’t take ‘em all. A&M can’t take ‘em all.
“There’s a lot of kids down there. Certainly we’re going to try to go in there and get the best as well. Us and a lot of people. Everybody in our league.
“To be honest with you, the Hogs are strong in Texas right now.”
Pool and Razorbacks safety Jalen Catalon, a redshirt sophomore from Mansfield, Texas, rank 1-2 in the SEC in tackles with 30 and 28, respectively. Catalon also has two interceptions.
Redshirt junior running back Trelon Smith, from Houston, leads Arkansas with 42 carries for 216 yards. Johnson has 15 carries for 132 yards. Both have three rushing touchdowns.
Beaux Limmer, from Tyler, Texas, started at right guard last week. Taurean Carter, from Mansfield, has become a key part of the defensive line rotation and has 11 tackles.
The Razorbacks’ top punt returner is Nathan Parodi from Austin and their punter is Reid Bauer from Magnolia, Texas. Their No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks, Malik Hornsby and John Stephen Jones, are from Missouri City, Texas, and Dallas, respectively.
Nine players from Texas are on the Razorbacks’ two-deep for offense and defense.
“I mean, listen, Texas is a huge state,” Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Guys are going to go everywhere and [Arkansas has] got some of the right ones.
“Smith is outstanding … I think Catalon is as good as we play. I think he is a really, really, really good player in what they’re doing. Bumper Pool … All those guys are really good players, and they’re productive players.
“You can say one thing that a guy is a good athlete, he has size, he has speed. But how productive is he on the football field? Every one of those guys is extremely productive.”
The Razorbacks didn’t get to play in AT&T Stadium last season because of covid-19 safety protocols and instead had to go to College Station, where the Aggies won 42-31.
Arkansas then was supposed to play in the Texas Bowl in Houston against TCU, but that game was canceled because the Horned Frogs had a covid-19 outbreak.
“Not playing there in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium last year, we’re excited to get back in there,” Pool said. “We love that stadium.”
Carter is among the Razorbacks who have played high school playoff games in AT&T Stadium.
“Those were great moments, man,” Carter said. “Great memories. I can’t wait to go back.
“It’s a bigger atmosphere, a different level of ball. I’m hoping to see it fully packed out. It gets pretty packed during the high school playoffs, but I’m wanting to see what this game really is about on Saturday.”
Each player gets four tickets for the game, and having so many Razorbacks from Texas makes it tough for them to round up extras.
Carter said it would be nice if the players could receive more than four tickets.
“I wish they could supply us, start off with a little bit more and then ask from there,” Carter said. “But shoot, it’s difficult. It’s tight. It’s tight.
“You’d like to have a lot of family be at the game, but I don’t think everybody’s going to be able to make it. Might have to just tailgate.”
Johnson, whose home is about a 20-minute drive from Arlington, said having so many Texas Razorbacks adds to the challenges of securing extra tickets.
“On top of that, we’re playing in the Cowboys’ stadium, so a lot of parents and a lot of people want to travel because they haven’t been there,” Johnson said. “It’s also been hard to try to get tickets because it’s such a big game.”
It’s not PeeWee for sure.