LITTLE ROCK, Ark — 2020 has been a tough year. We don’t need to remind you why. Instead, we’ll remind you of the good still out there.
Over the last six months, Nick Walters has produced six mini-documentaries across Arkansas sports to lift spirits. They showcase the human element behind star athletes, shine light on supportive communities, and prove that no hardship is unsurmountable.
The first story debuted on the day sports in 2020 hit its first speed bump: Kobe Bryant’s tragic death. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic halted live games and racial unrest dealt a demoralizing blow to the country’s unity.
Besides turning frowns upside down, this hour-long compilation offers countless lessons. We have categorized these stories by their main takeaways: Resilience, Acceptance, Resolve, and Humility.
AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Story of JT Towers
JT Towers is now an Arkansas Razorback. It’s an accomplishment he’s always dreamt of — And one that he overcame unthinkable odds to reach.
- Lost his brother Zack to brain trauma caused by a football injury in 2014.
- T-boned by a semi-truck in 2017. It left JT with forehead stitches, broken neck vertebrae, a broken rib, a hole in his lung, hand tendon laceration, a torn labrum, and coming fractions of an inch to sustaining brain damage.
- Then focused on playing quarterback, JT was forced to miss his sophomore season and relearn how to throw a football due to the wreck.
- After a breakout junior year despite his injuries, JT transferred to Joe T. Robinson High School and was converted to a linebacker.
- Without any college football offers as a senior, JT broke his toe in the season-opener. He returned only a few weeks later, playing in pain the rest of the year.
- Helped lead Joe T. Robinson to a first state championship win in 30 years. He secured an offer from his dream school, Arkansas, and committed only hours later.
(Air Date: January 26, 2020)
HOG DREAM: Chandler McIntosh’s Unthinkable Road to Arkansas
A newly-signed Razorback you maybe haven’t heard of: Chandler McIntosh, a preferred walk-on. His path to get here is truly one of a kind.
- Diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay in Speech as a toddler.
- Attended a school for the impaired until he began speaking years later than most children.
- Endured difficult financial circumstances through middle school, having his home’s lights go out at times and his father struggling to pay the bills.
- Told he “wasn’t SEC material” by a coach after not being invited to Arkansas Junior Day.
- Transferring to a new school with only one more year of eligibility, Chandler broke the Arkansas state record for single-season tackles and helped lead Joe T. Robinson to a state championship.
- Still short of meeting his “Hog Dream,” Chandler fell into a depressive state. He considered other career options, such as joining the military, before receiving a Preferred Walk-On offer from Arkansas days before National Signing Day. He accepted and cried tears of joy after signing.
(Air Date: February 16, 2020)
SPECIAL: Treat Unordinary as Extraordinary
Michael Joe Lanari has down-syndrome. But student-athletes at Joe T. Robinson decided that wouldn’t get in the way of forming of a unique bond. A story of acceptance leading to friendship, a kid being given confidence, and so-called “jocks” proving a stereotype wrong.
- While fighting through pneumonia, Michael Joe underwent open-heart surgery as an infant, nearly costing him his life.
- Growing up, Michael Joe faced fear of judgment growing up through a public school system.
- He remains behind other students at his school in quality of speech to this day.
- Putting himself out there, Michael Joe connected with student-athletes at his school beginning at lunch. Over time, he’s formed a friendship that has shined on-and-off fields.
- Having been an honorary team captain, Michael Joe remains close with football and baseball players at Robinson High. He’s even taking a former volleyball player to prom.
(Air Date: March 1, 2020)
IT’S TIME: Razorbacks Signee Moses Moody’s Story
- No. 38 Prospect in US, No. 9 Shooting Guard
- State champion as freshman and sophomore (MVP)
- Star on nation’s top-ranked high school team as a senior
- Projected 2021 NBA Lottery pick
- Childhood inspiration: Big brother Myles
- Childhood team: AAU team Arkansas Hawks alongside KK Robinson
- High School Career
- Freshman: Little Rock Parkivew
- Sophomore: North Little Rock
- Junior-Senior: at Montverde Academy (FL)
(Air Date: May 3, 2020)
GET READY: Path Behind Phenom, Razorbacks Signee KK Robinson
- No. 37 Prospect in US, No. 11 Point Guard
- State champion as freshman (MVP)
- Star on one of nation’s top 30 high school teams as a senior
- Shortest of nation’s top 50 overall prospects at 6’0″
- Childhood Inspiration: Big brother Kelvin
- Childhood team: Arkansas Hawks alongside Moses Moody, Ethan Henderson, Desi Sills, Isaiah Joe
- High School Career:
- Freshman: Episcopal Collegiate
- Sophomore-Junior: Bryant
- Senior: Oak Hill Academy (VA)
(Air Date: May 17, 2020)
LOVE FOR THE GAME: Derrian Ford, An Unlikely Smalltown Star
- One of the most heavily offered prospects in Class of 2022
- State champion as freshman and sophomore (MVP)
- 18 Divison-1 offers at just 16 years old
- Nationally touted despite playing at 4A school
- Childhood Inspiration: Father Darnell, childhood team coach Chris
- Childhood team: Southwest Arkansas Ballers
- High School Career: Magnolia
(Air Date: June 14, 2020)