FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas Razorbacks open fall camp this week. After being fitted for helmets and pads, newcomers to the program will be meeting with newly hired pronunciation coach Norman Sellers.
“I just love the energy and enthusiasm of our freshmen,” Sellers said, “but most received little or no pronunciation conditioning in high school. We need to make sure everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the coach’s name.”
Freshman receiver Marcusaviour Jackson from Macon, Ga., knows the importance of getting his head coach’s name right.
“I’ve always been a student of the game,” Jackson said. “Now I want to be a student of the name.”
Jackson said he knew it wouldn’t be easy. His first attempt to say his head coach’s name occurred during a recruiting call last summer. He went with BOO-lee-mia.
“It’s not an uncommon variation,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Monday. “If a kid gets even one syllable right on the first go, we’re cool. Well, except BEE-ULE-la-ma. If I hear that one, I’ll yank a scholarship so fast, his grandkids will feel it.”
Enter the new pronunciation coach, Sellers.
“We’ll spend a lot of time in the film room this week, you know, listening to tapes,” Sellers said. “Like everything else in football, it’s all about the fundamentals. We’ll diagram each syllable. For the tougher syllables, we’ll break it down letter by letter.”
To help ease their transition to college life, Sellers has gone the extra mile. In addition to their football playbook, Razorback freshman will be required to carry an official Razorback ‘saybook’ with them at all times.
“Once we get Coach Beilema nailed down, we’ll move on to our Director of Football Operations, Mark Taurisani,” Sellers said.
“I’m so thankful for coaches like [wide receivers coach] Michael Smith and [defensive coordinator] Robb Smith,” he noted. “They make my job so much easier.”
Sellers’ previous coaching stops include three seasons with West Virginia Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen. He has also worked with Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Sellers’ first taste of coaching came as a graduate pronunciation assistant for Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils team in the 90s.