FAYETTEVILLE — Ben Sowders was hired by Sam Pittman to replace Jamil Walker as strength and conditioning coach following the season.
On Wednesday, Sowders talked about how his hiring came about with a timeline as well.
“Yeah, Coach Pittman reached out to me after our last game when I was at the University of Louisville,” Sowders said. “Just kind of asked me if this was a place I’d be interested in, and I told him absolutely I would be. We kind of got a little further into talks, he brought me down, I was fortunate enough to interview with him, the staff, the administration, Mr. (Hunter) Yurachek. Got the green light, got the offer, and it’s been rocking and rolling ever since.”
Prior to the Louisville job, Sowders was hired at Georgia in January, 2018, as assistant director. There, he worked with Pittman prior to him leaving to become head football coach at Arkansas following the 2019 season. Sowders’ previous relationship with Pittman played a role in him coming to Arkansas.
“Very heavily,” Sowders said. “If it was somebody else, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here before you. I believe in Coach Pittman, not only as a coach but as a man. I know how he does things, he’s genuine, he truly cares about the players. He cares about the staff, he cares about this program. It was a no-brainer when he gave me the opportunity to come, I knew I was coming.”
Sowders was at Louisville for one season. He talked about his growth in that year.
“Well, I think sitting in this seat, you’ve got to be able to answer a lot of questions,” Sowders said. “You’ve got to be able to reflect and say ‘what do we do well, what do we not do well’ and continue to build on that. I think it’s easier said than done. A lot of people want to sit in this seat but they don’t realize what goes on. You wear a lot of hats. A lot, a lot of hats. From the mental aspect, physical, you’re talking about relationships with players, academics, nutrition, obviously football, the scheme of football, sports science. Just getting in there and talking about weights is probably just a small, small, small, small part of it. It’s much more than that now.”
When Arkansas lost to Missouri to end the regular season, Pittman said the Hogs got out-physicaled. Sowders talked about to fix that.
“Obviously we’ve got to get better in the trenches,” Sowders said. “This game, this league, you’ve got to win in the trench. That’s O-line and D-line, so we’ve already put a huge premium on that. Our lifting and running, we start with our bigs on everything we do. That’s just to set the mindset of everything starts with you. We’re going to win and lose up front and for us to be successful, our O-line and D-line have to understand that they lead the charge. So I think putting a premium on that.”
Sowders also named a few players in the 10 days he has worked with the team who have stepped up as leaders.
“When you talk about leadership, everybody wants to get better at leadership,” Sowders said. “Some guys don’t know how. So it’s our job as coaches and staff to help them lead, right? Help them understand what leadership is, put them in roles so that they can lead, and then once they’re in those roles, we have to grow them to develop their leadership. But there’s been several guys. I mean, KJ (Jefferson), right off the bat from Day 1 since I’ve been here has really been strong. Rocket (Sanders). I mean, you’ve got the whole offensive line, the guys that have been here a long time, your Beauxs (Limmer), your Lukes (Jones). Who else? Chris Paul has been a younger guy that’s stepped up, really been vocal here early. But it’s been a great rapport. The guys are hungry. They want to win. It’s our job to make sure that we give them the best recipe to win.”
Sowders also talked about his staff and who he might be hiring to work with him in Fayetteville.
“We haven’t technically finalized that,” Sowders said. “I do have about six or seven guys that I feel really good about, that I know are all in and that want to be here. It’s my job to make sure I get the best four out of those. So we’re going to do all of our homework. I can say this, a lot of people have reached out. They know this place is a special place. They know coach Pittman is a special coach. It’s been overwhelming. I think the first day that it officially came out that I was accepting the job, I think I had 126 text messages from colleagues, but half of those are people that are trying to get in on the job. They want to be here. They want to be a Razorback. Once again, that goes back to how special this place truly is.”
When Arkansas hosts Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 9, in Razorback Stadium it will be the second time for Sowders to coach in the stadium. He was part of the Georgia staff that opened the 2020 season against Arkansas in Fayetteville. Prior to Kent State, Arkansas will face Kansas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 28, and then open the 2023 campaign in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium hosting Western Carolina. Sowders talked about the Georgia and Arkansas game in 2020 during the COVID season.
“Only thing I remember is we were down at halftime,” Sowders said. “Game 1 of… I think that was ‘19? Was that ‘19? ‘20, yeah, so. And I’ll be honest; when I was at Georgia, Coach (Kirby) Smart said that was the loudest half-full stadium we’ve ever been to. So, I can’t wait until we play that first home game where we roll the ball out, and get around Hog nation and we call the Hogs.
“Like, that’s why I came. Because I know it’s a special fanbase. I know we’ve got great kids here. And our leader, Coach Pittman, I believe in him. I believe into him with every ounce in me, and I know he’s going to give everything to this program, and I’m going to do the same. He’s going to get my best every day.”
The Razorbacks and Kansas kickoff at 4:30 p.m. and televised on ESPN.