FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Greg Childs doesn’t think there’s anything special about the way he has behaved this season.
The Arkansas wide receiver just smiles when he’s asked about his on-the-field struggles and downplays the remarkably positive attitude he’s shown while recovering from last season’s knee injury.
Childs’ smile is nothing new to his teammates, who have watched in awe and admiration as the senior has graciously slipped from starring to a supporting role for the Razorbacks this season. Behind that smile, though, burns the same old Greg Childs — one of the top receivers in the Southeastern Conference for his first three seasons, one who still fully expects to shine in the NFL.
Before he can start prepping for his professional career, however, Childs has one piece of business left to take care of when No. 7 Arkansas (10-2) faces No. 11 Kansas State (10-2) on Jan. 6 in the Cotton Bowl.
“I’m just waiting my time; it’s coming real soon,” Childs said. “It’s going to be a show.”
Childs led the Razorbacks in nearly every receiving category as a sophomore in 2009, finishing with 48 catches for 894 yards and seven touchdowns. He was on track for even bigger things last season as a junior, leading the Razorbacks with 46 catches for 659 yards when he injured his knee against Vanderbilt in the eighth game of the season.
After an offseason of rehabilitation, Childs was clearly not full-speed during Arkansas’ first preseason workout in August — limping noticeably and dropping several balls. Despite the insistence by Arkansas’ coaches and Childs that he was completely healthy, his production this season was nowhere near what the Razorbacks and the rest of the SEC had become accustomed to.
He finished the regular season with 16 catches for 192 yards, both career lows, and was seventh on Arkansas in catches.
By all accounts, Childs didn’t let the drop in production affect his attitude.
“I think that, more than all the positive things and all the awards and all the numbers, the fact that you can look at somebody and say, ‘He was a great teammate’ is, in my mind, more important than all that other stuff,” Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “And Greg has certainly been that. He hasn’t been selfish, and he’s been one of my favorite teammates that I’ve had here.”
Childs’ test of patience was made easier by a group of friends on the team he had been around for four years. In some cases, such as with former Warren, Ark., high school teammates Jarius Wright and Chris Gragg, those ties went much deeper.
Wright surpassed Childs as the Razorbacks’ top target this season, leading the SEC in catches (63) and yards receiving per game (93.5). While Wright was having his breakout season, however, he couldn’t help but notice the dropoff of Childs — who he’s known since fourth-grade.
“Everyone has noticed it, and they’ve been proud of Greg,” Wright said. “I’ve been proud of Greg, knowing he hasn’t had the ball as much as he wanted to, but for him to keep a smile on his face, to walk around and smile and laugh and play just as hard during the game, shows the type of person he is.”
The on-the-field dropoff wasn’t the only struggle for Childs this season. He missed Arkansas’ game against Troy after the death of his grandmother, and he said the lessons he’s learned will only help him in the future.
“With anybody getting hurt and going through the things I’ve went through, you always learn more about yourself as a person,” Childs said. “Just how you’re going to handle this and come back from this. Maybe a year ago I wouldn’t have known how I would handle this, but now I do.”
Those who know him best have no doubt he’ll have an impact moving forward — both against the Wildcats and in the NFL.
“He’s gotten back his speed,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. “He’s worked hard at it in every drill and practice. So, I’ve been really impressed with Greg. He’ll be back next year.”