LITTLE ROCK, AR – Malcomb Williams is a 235-pound linebacker who led his Central High team with nearly 100 tackles his senior season. He was named to the 7A-Central All-State team.
Despite his 3.0 GPA, Williams never got a look from Arkansas or Arkansas State.
To earn a scholarship and continue his career, Williams is heading 200 miles south to Grambling State in Louisiana. His story’s not unlike many others in Little Rock. In order to keep playing the sport they love, they must leave the city where they were born and raised.
That wasn’t always the case.
Back in 1949 in the Junior Rose Bowl, the Little Rock Trojans beat the Santa Anna Chiefs 25-19, capping off an undefeated season. Several years later, the football program was discontinued and has been dormant ever since.
Mayor Mark Stodola said bringing football back to Little Rock would benefit the whole city. “I just think we’re going to have to rekindle the discussion and the interest in it,” he said. “It certainly would be an economic engine.”
With the University of Arkansas seeming inclined to phase out its Little Rock games, Stodola has his eyes on a new tenant for one of the city’s prized possessions. War Memorial hold 55-thousand people but on most Saturdays this fall, the stadium will sit empty.
“I think that we should find uses now and I think UALR is a very likely candidate.” said Stodola.
Little Rock Attorney Kevin Crass has an interesting perspective. He’s chair of the War Memorial Stadium Commission and sits on the UALR Board of Visitors.
“What the stadium offers to UALR is a ready built facility,” Crass said. “It’s something the university certainly should be discussing.”
Newly hired UALR Athletic Director Chase Conque said football can galvanize a university. “Football can bring a community together; it brings a campus together.”
UALR is one of only two school in the Sun Belt Conference without a team.”We understand our league is becoming more of a football league,” Conque said. Also saying taking on football is a huge commitment. “The numbers, they don’t lie, it’s an expensive venture.”
Based on what its cost at other universities, Conque believes starting football at UALR would take $10 -$15-million up front and increasing his department’s $9-million athletic budget by nearly 70 percent.
“You have to look at an increase in your academic support, your increase in sports medicine, making sure you have the right training staff in place.”
If they built it, Malcomb Willaims said players in Little Rock would come.”If they recruit in the city, they will have a lot of talent. I think it will actually be a pretty good team,” said Williams.
Williams, he said the opportunity to stay home would be a tough one to turn down. “I would love that opportunity just to know that my mom is just a couple minutes away. I’m going to UALR she could come to all our home games.”
For now that’s just a football player’ dream.One day Williams hopes those who grow up in the shadows War Memorial can one day call it home.