It was a very special night for the Hot Springs Village Razorback Club when they were awarded the Horton Cup, which is given to the number one Razorback Club in the state.
There are 22 clubs in Arkansas and the Village club has been chosen by the University of Arkansas as the best of the best.
Making the presentation to outgoing club president George LaFargue was John Matsko, senior associate director of the Razorback Foundation. The award is based on a number of factors, including membership figures and dollars raised.
Another highlight of the meeting was when incoming president Wayne Dyer made a special presentation to Charlotte Akelaitis. “I have the privilege of recognizing a special person,” Dyer told a roomful of Hog faithful. “The club is making a $1,000 donation to the Foundation in her name.”
Dyer sincerely praised Akelaitis for her 28 years of highly devoted service to the club, adding, “We would not be where we are today without Miss Charlotte,” to which Akelaitis received a heartfelt standing ovation from club members.
Guest speakers for the dinner banquet were former Razorback football players Grant Garrett and Jared McBride.
Garrett played for the Hogs from 1995 to 1998, was drafted by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and played center and left guard for two years. He is a Lake Hamilton High School graduate and current owner of Garrett Excavation in Hot Springs.
McBride played quarterback for Arkansas from 1996 to 2000 and graduated from Nashville High School where he led his team to a 15-0 record and a class AA state title in 1995. He is now in his seventh year as head football coach at Lakeside High School.
Matsko spoke first, saying let’s address the elephant in the room – the hugely disappointing end to last year’s football season. “No one is more disappointed than Coach Bielema. He went home and stayed in isolation for two days,” Matsko said, then added that coach and players then moved on to prepare for the upcoming year. Matsko said people are down on the program but, “We need you. We need your support for all our teams through thick and thin.”
After describing some of the stadium improvements underway, Matsko’s comments included the fact that the University has 460 student athletes with an an average 3.23 grade-point average.
Garrett spoke first, telling his story of being a Razorback football player and what it meant to him. When he was young he told his father he would someday play for the Hogs. His father disagreed, but Garrett pressed on.
Later a coach told him the same thing, that it wouldn’t happen, but it did.
He eventually got the attention of then head Hogs coach Danny Ford and his dream came true.
Garrett attended a camp and received the best lineman award, but after that he didn’t hear from the school. But then came word that Ford was coming to watch him practice.
Garrett had a good practice, but Ford was hesitant because Garrett only weighed 255 pounds. Ford did not take linemen under 275 pounds. Ford asked that Garrett be weighed. At the weigh-in, Garrett said his high school coach snuck 10 pound weights in Garrett’s pockets, bringing him up to 275 and a scholarship to Fayetteville.
Garrett said there were some player problems back in his day and it took a few years to weed out the bad apples, but he endured and improved, maturing along the way. “I attribute my business success to those days as a Hog,” Garrett said.
He added a touching moment when he told everyone about one of the best experiences of his life.
Things weren’t going too well for Garrett when one day he ran into one of the coaches, who took the time to give him encouragement. “That person was Jesse Branch,” Garrett said as he pointed to Branch sitting in the audience. It was obviously a touching moment for both men.
McBride said the game of football continues to teach him about life and that he is grateful for those years on the football team. “That changed my life forever,” he said.
After throwing for 4,000 yards his senior year in high school, he joined the Hogs and became a back-up quarterback. As time when on he finally got a chance to play, but fate intervened when on his second play under center he torn his ACL and was done. McBride said it derailed him, but he was a Razorback and proud of it and he uses that life lesson to teach his players how to be  part of a team.
Dyer noted during the meeting that the club is sponsoring a cruise this coming fall and said it is a fun way to raise money for the foundation and to get together as Hog fans. “Our mission is to raise funds for all the sports. Take a look at the cruise information,” said Dyer.
The next event for the Razorback Club is on May 9, when they have their annual golf tournament mixer, followed the next day by the golfing event.