Tiger back Dean has good visit to Fayetteville

Published 4:07 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

By Richard Davenport

University of Arkansas junior running back target Janari Dean said close friend and Razorback quarterback signee KJ Jefferson, from North Panola High School, told him good things about the Hogs.

Despite the endorsement, Dean’s visit to Fayetteville last Saturday surpassed his expectations.

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“It’s better to see it in-person,” he said.

Dean, 6-0, 175 pounds, of Batesville’s  South Panola High School  has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi, but he is certain to add more.

The facilities at Arkansas stood out.  “I went to Alabama, and it looked better than Alabama to me,” Dean said. “The facilities in general.”

An admitted country boy, Dean enjoyed the drive into Fayetteville with his parents, James and Laja, and younger brother Javon.

“Driving up here was amazing,” Dean said. “It reminds me of being back home because I’m a country boy, so that’s going to play a big role in everything. I like the woods and stuff. Just coming through Fayetteville is a beautiful sight to see, like all the water and mountains. I loved that.”

Dean rushed 296 times for 2,030 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He also had six games of 200 yards or more for the Tigers.

The Arkansas coaching staff was another highlight of the visit.

“They were straight up,” Dean said. “I don’t feel like they would tell me any stories. They’re honest with me.”

An upfront coaching staff is important to Dean.

“That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t want anyone that’s going to sugarcoat stuff,” Dean said. “I want you to be straight up with me and tell me if I’ve got a shot.”

He said the trip elevated Arkansas on his list.

“They’re up there now,” he said. “I didn’t know Arkansas would be so nice. I didn’t doubt them, but I just haven’t been up here and to finally get up here and meet the coaching staff and talk to different people it was a great experience, and I love how they are about their academics.”

Dean, who has a 3.9 grade-point average, was impressed with Jerry and Gene Jones Academic Center and the support Arkansas gives to its athletes.

“They’re going to do whatever it takes to get you to class and make sure you’re set for life after football,” Dean said. “That’s a big key to me.”

His focus on academics isn’t lip service. He missed his freshman season because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury, then missed his sophomore season after breaking his arm during a four-wheeler accident.

“I know football isn’t everything,” Dean said. “I’ve experienced it being taken away from me twice, so I know what it’s like to not have football, so you have to have something to fall back on.”

He and his family also ate at a famous catfish restaurant in Fayetteville, and Dean nearly overindulged on the hush puppies.

“Boy, ooh wee, that’s so good,” he said. “I ate about 10 of them. I said I have to stop before I get full off of this.”

Saturday’s trip won’t be Dean’s last one to Arkansas. “Oh, most definitely, I’ll be back,” Dean said.

His parents and brother also enjoyed the visit.

“My little brother loves it,” Dean said. “My dad and my mom – my mom especially enjoyed it- but my dad liked the vibe.”

Dean will take his time before making a college decision.

“I won’t make decision until signing day in December,” Dean said. “When I commit to a team, I want to be committed to them. I’m not going to back out. Once I say I’m doing it, I’m doing it.”