Arnold Gives ASU Complete Package at Running Back
By Todd Traub
Special to the Arkansas State Athletics Department from Todd Traub
What Reggie Arnold has done when touching the football has been measured and re-measured.
What he has done without the ball is immeasurable.
Arnold enters his senior season at Arkansas State with 3,210 career yards. He needs 738 more to overtake all-time leader Richie Woit, who has been the program's rushing champion since he played facemask free and gained 3,947 yards from 1950-53.
Arnold is among the NCAA's leading active rushers and he has a chance to become the eighth back in college football to rush for 1,000 or more yards all four seasons.
It's all there, written down and recorded in black and white.
What is harder to quantify, and what got Arnold his job in the first place, is what he has done without the ball, the things that don't always show up on highlight films but on which successful plays can turn.
"It could the difference in a 70-yard touchdown and a 7-yard run," Arnold said of the blocking, pass protection and route-running he has made a source of pride the past three seasons.
Arnold gained 2,603 yards and scored 31 touchdowns his final two years at Little Rock McClellan High School, so it was already established he could move the football when he arrived at Arkansas State in 2005. Arnold redshirted and watched the team win its first Sun Belt Conference championship and take a 31-19 loss to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl.
Because of Hurricane Katrina, the game had been relocated from New Orleans to Cajun Field, nicknamed "The Swamp," on the Louisiana-Lafayette campus. Arnold recalled standing on the sidelines in the December cold and watching Arkansas State gut out a 10-10, halftime tie before eventually falling to the Golden Eagles.
By the time Arkansas State was returning North, Arnold had figured out what he needed to do.
"They had plays that they worked on in the spring and they were throwing so much at us and it was making my head swim," he said. "I told myself at the end of the season on the bus ride back home from the New Orleans Bowl, if I could learn to pass protect and run the accurate routes and what to do on those key plays without the ball in my hand, I could be a starter here at Arkansas State for the next four years."
Arnold did, and he has.
"Just being able to be physical in his pass protections and being able to pick up all the blitzes and all the things that you see throughout the course of the season," Coach Steve Roberts said of Arnold's performance during spring of 2006. "And understanding his role and his assignments. Things that you typically don't see a freshman running back be able to do. That was a thing that really stood out. From that point forward he has also been very good running the football and getting some tough yards for our team."
Arnold was a bit of a pest during spring ball, picking the brains of Roberts and running backs Coach David Gunn as he tried to learn what to do when he wasn't getting a carry. The running stuff he already knew.
Arnold gained a career best 1,076 yards and scored four touchdowns his first year. He gained 1,060 yards and had career bests in yards per carry (6.5) and touchdowns (9) as a sophomore.
Last year he gained 1,074 yards and had eight scores and, with classmate Corey Leonard growing into his role as quarterback, Arnold had his best receiving year with 135 yards.
None of it has come easily. If not for nagging knee and ankle injuries, Arnold may have gotten more touches to pad his totals - and he has made it a point to get in his best physical shape this off season - but his performance has certainly helped the Red Wolves keep alive their tradition of having a marquee back that can carry the load.
"We've had, I think six out of the seven years, we've had a tailback that's rushed for over 1,000 yards," Roberts said. "Obviously Reggie has three in the last three years and has a chance to be the eighth player in college football history to rush for four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons so that's quite an honor for what he's able to accomplish."
Arnold's yards have marked out for him a path not every college back gets to follow. He was a candidate for the Doak Walker award, given annually to the running back that shows the best combination of on- and off-field success and is likely to be on the list again this year.
"It's just an honor to be put on that list with guys like Tony Dorsett, a guy I have sat down and talked to at the Heisman Trophy presentation in 2004," Arnold said. "He told me some encouraging words, that it's not always about where you go but what you do when you get there. That's the approach I've taken toward the season every year that I've stepped on the field.
"I'm at Arkansas State and what I do on the field is going to affect me and affect my teammates. It's something I just strive for. The awards will come at the end of the year and if they don't, as long as I know that I've given 110 percent, I can live with myself."
When asked about his favorite games, Arnold recalls his ASU stadium record 225 yards set against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007 and last year's 28-14 victory over Florida Atlantic, when he gained 150 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown despite a bruised thigh.
Then Arnold drifts almost predictably to the might-have-been games, the close losses last year to Southern Miss, Louisiana-Lafayette or Florida International in which, literally, just one or two negative plays made the difference.
Like his senior classmates, Arnold has endured a frustrating three years in which the Red Wolves have come close to a New Orleans Bowl return, but have always fallen short.
Clearly, Arnold feels he has a few more yards to go.
"It motivates me a lot because I can remember talking to Coach Roberts after spring practice and saying that I want to get back to the New Orleans Bowl," Arnold said. "I remember that feeling of walking down Louisiana-Lafayette's tunnel and the chills running through my body. I haven't felt that feeling in a long time and that's something that I want to feel again. This is something that has motivated our senior class.
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