Arkansas fullback Kiero Small has seen a lot during his two years with the Razorbacks.
He felt the highs of transferring from the junior college ranks to a team that flirted with a BCS berth to watching one of the more talented teams in the SEC crumble after losing its head coach almost exactly a year ago.
During that miserable season in Fayetteville, Small, who will be a redshirt senior this fall, had to sit and watch for 11 games after he broke his foot in practice following the Razorbacks' opener.
A lot has changed for Small and Arkansas since his injury, so he decided to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to ESPN.com about his injury and the new, physical style Bret Bielema has brought to Arkansas's football team:
Edward Aschoff: How is spring practice going for you after you had to sit out just about all of last season after breaking your foot?
Kiero Small: It’s going pretty good. I’m 100 percent now and it feels good to be running around at 100 percent and getting back into the swing of things.
EA: Your injury didn’t sound fun at all.
KS: Not at all. I finished practice, but when I cut the tape it was a pretty bad feeling.
EA: How did it happen?
KS: We were down on the goal line and it was just a normal play, and I think I stepped wrong or something. I just know that I felt it and thought it was a sprained ankle or something so I got back into the huddle and finished a couple plays at the end of practice. When I came off the field, I felt something different (in his foot) so I got the trainers and when they cut the tape we found out what it was.
EA: What did you have to do in order to avoid going crazy because you couldn’t really walk?
KS: Well, when I first got out of surgery and I was going to school for a few weeks it was different because one of my legs got bigger than the other because I was pushing the knee scooter around. I was then in a boot for a little while and then I was finally able to walk on two feet, but it was a little different because I had to remind myself to stop limping and not to favor one side. It was tough in the beginning, but as the process went I just took it in stride.
EA: When was the first time you were able to run again?
KS: I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was toward the end of the season. I was running, but it wasn’t a full-speed run. I was running straight and I couldn’t cut or anything like that. Every time I could do something new, I tried to go attack it and it just felt good to be able to run. Coming into spring and being able to do everything was a good feeling.
EA: What was it like for you to sit and watch everything that happened to you guys on the field?
KS: It was tough. It was probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to do because the guys that were out there, we really bonded as a team. It didn’t show on the field, but we were a real close team and with all the things that happened it forced us to bond more. It seemed like seeing your brother out there and you can’t help him.
EA: How much does that motivate you and some of the other guys to rebound this season, considering all the shortcomings you had with so much talent last fall?
KS: One of the things it showed us is that nothing is promised. Everybody had high hopes last year and with everything that happened, we saw that we have to go to work. It’s good to work and work, but at the end of the day, you have to put it all on the field. Now, we’re taking it one day at a time. That’s on thing that coach [Bret Bielema] has stressed. We have a younger team so we all understand that it’s going to take one day at a time.
EA: What was your first reaction when you saw that Bret Bielema was going to be your new head coach?
KS: I was pretty excited. I had watched them in their bowl game and I knew that Monte Ball was a big-time name the last couple of years, so they were always on prime-time TV. I liked their style of ball and when we finally got around to meeting with us you didn’t really know what to expect, but it was a sigh of relief when we met with him.
EA: How much do you like that physical running style, especially being the fullback in this offense?
KS: I like it a lot. It allows me to stay on the field a lot more and basically I get to punch people in the mouth and play physical ball. That’s the kind of ball you need if you’re going to win in this league.
EA: Is that the kind of ball that this team needs, especially after not having much energy or fire for most of last season?
KS: Everything fell into place. We have a great strength and conditioning staff and a great coaching staff. Everything fell into place for what this team needs. We have some young running backs that showed that they are pretty good last year and they aren’t already seasoned. They can be molded and this system allows you to go out and play tough football and hit people in the mouth and that’s the kind of ball that this team needs.
EA: What do you think your role will be in this kind of offense?
KS: Whatever they ask me to do. I’m practically the oldest guy on the team and I’ve seen a lot. Right now, it’s just to lead by example because I’m not really a vocal guy. I try to lead by example and attack everything we do and keep the younger guys going. It’s spring ball so we don’t have a game every Saturday. We just have scrimmages so I have to keep telling them that this is going to help us in the fall.