Alcorn vs. Arkansas State: Fleming recalls days as ball boy
lorman — As a boy, R.J. Fleming spent his Saturdays running footballs from one end of the Alcorn State University football field to the other as a ball boy for the Braves.
Several years later, Fleming is a college football player for Arkansas State University, living the life that he used to admire when he was in middle school.
“I was in sixth or seventh grade, and I was the guy transitioning the ball every play (as a ball boy),” Fleming said. “It was crazy. I remember admiring the ground those guys walked on, and I couldn’t wait to have a moment like that. It was a dream of mine, and I couldn’t wait until I was in this position.”
Saturday, Fleming will step on the field for the Red Wolves against the team that got it all started as he continues to live his college football dreams.
Alcorn State will travel to Jonesboro, Ark., to face Fleming and the Red Wolves, but despite several friends and family members making the trip, Fleming said he would treat Saturday’s game like any other contest.
“I don’t mean this mean, but the Alcorn game is just another game on the schedule,” he said. “I take every game like it’s the same.”
Arkansas State is currently 1-2 on the season with losses to Oregon and Nebraska, and Fleming said those games were a measuring stick for the overmatched Red Wolves.
“Oregon is going to win a national championship, or compete for one,” he said. “We went out there expecting a different result, but we saw what we needed to work on to make improvements. Nebraska was the same result. Those kind of games let you know where you stand and what you need to work on.”
This weekend, Arkansas State will play the role of Goliath as Alcorn (Football Championship Subdivision) visits its only Football Bowl Subdivision opponent of the season.
Braves’ head coach Jay Hopson said he knows the challenges Arkansas State brings for the Braves.
“I think (our players) are excited,” Hopson said. “Anytime you play up against FBS schools, guys get excited and look at it as a challenge.”
Hopson is greatly impressed with Arkansas State’s offensive capability under head coach Gus Malzahn, he said.
Alcorn (1-2) is coming off a 24-6 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff Saturday, but Hopson said the team is focused this week.
“Everybody’s doing good and working hard,” he said. “We realize we’ve opened up the season with four tough opponents. We certainly played hard, but we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. Right now we are in a building phase, and I think we’re pretty much right on track. We are about where I expected to be, and I’ve been pretty pleased.”
The Braves’ defense will look to try to slow down Arkansas State’s explosive offense and keep Fleming, who has had a slow start to the season, from having a huge game catching the ball.
Fleming has just two catches for 26 yards on the season, and he hopes Saturday will give him the opportunity to get his season going the way he wants, he said.
“As of now things are slow and definitely not how I expected it to be playing out,” he said. “Patience is a big thing, and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity. I’m waiting on a door to open for me.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Arkansas State.