FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt freshman Chris “Pooh” Paul is set for what could be a very good season at linebacker with the departure of Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry.
As a true freshman in 2021 out of Cordele (Ga.) Crisp County Paul played in four games thus preserving his redshirt season. He finished with one tackle including 0.5 for loss. Following practice on Thursday Paul even explained how his nickname came about.
“My parents when they were younger, their nickname was Pooh,” Paul said. “Of course, my name is Chris Paul Jr. so I was the first boy out of six sisters. My dad wanted me to be a junior. A lot of people thought my nickname was going to be CJ, but it wasn’t. So he gave me his nickname and that’s how it just came about. People have been calling me Pooh ever since, or ever since my mom started screaming my name at Little League games.”
Paul said he actually prefers to be called Pooh instead of Chris. Paul talked about learning last fall while playing behind Morgan, Henry and Bumper Pool.
“Playing behind those guys was a true blessing to me,” Paul said. “I was actually very happy they came back that last year. Learning behind them, especially with Grant, sometimes I would go sit with Grant and learn extra. And even with Hayden. We’ll take time after practice and we’ll stay after and we’ll just learn the scheme. He’ll teach me the scheme. In the beginning, as a freshman, as a mid-year, like Coach (Barry) Odom said in the last interview, you supposed to be getting ready for biology class, but I was out here and had to put my big boy pants on, so he had to teach me the schemes, how the defensive line maneuvers, how we maneuver and the DBs. Playing behind those guys was a true blessing, especially Grant Morgan.”
Odom’s defense is set up for the linebackers to make a lot of plays. Paul said that appealed to him during the recruiting process.
“That was one of the factors (in coming here),” Paul said. “I would say the most important factor to me was family in my recruitment. I’ve been having a relationship with all these coaches since they were at different schools, and once they came to this one it was just like God was telling me this is the place I have to be, this is where I’ll thrive and where I’ve been thriving since.”
Paul has enjoyed his year at Arkansas and talked about the experience in more detail.
“My experience here has been very amazing,” Paul said. “The hard part of the journey my first year, my first year I had to get adjusted to everything. I was a mid-year. So I had to become accustomed to classes and workouts and things like that and I had to fit into the culture. But guys like Isaiah Nichols, Grant Morgan at the time, Hayden Henry and Bumper Pool of course. They got me on the right track and they just kept me there and ever since then I’ve been on a roll.”
While Arkansas is a long way from Georgia that isn’t an issue for Paul.
“Arkansas has felt like home since I committed here,” Paul said. “So it wasn’t a hard transition for me. I fell in love with the coaches as soon as they got here. I fell in love with Coach (Sam) Pittman when he was at Georgia. So it wasn’t hard for me. He made me feel at home there. He made me feel at home here. So it wasn’t hard to become accustomed to moving up here.”
While Pool returned for another season, Paul is now competing with Alabama transfer Drew Sanders for the other starting linebacker spot. Paul has been impressed with the former five-star recruit.
“Drew has been a great (addition) to the linebackers corps,” Paul said. “He says he’s learned a lot of things from me, but honestly and truly I’ve learned a lot of thing from him as far as pass-rushing moves, how to maneuver fast, and how he moves around. He has taught me a lot of things as well, so he has been a blessing coming to the linebacker corp.”
Paul has no issues being this far away from Georgia and competing for the starting spot. But how was growing up with six sisters?
“So growing up with a lot of sisters, you know, as you can imagine, was kind of crazy,” Paul said. “But you know, we all had that kind of bond and they really, and truly, other than my pops, taught me how to be a true man and sticking to my word and how far you can get with being honest and being memorable and just playing on hard work. So growing up with them, it really taught me a lot. You know, I had to grow up at a younger age. Like my dad always says, always think 10 years ahead. If you’re 15, think like you’re 25. You know, and my sisters they helped imply that on me, jus the small things. You know, sometimes kids, you know, they take for granted what they have, but for me I took it as they’re trying to help me. They’re trying to help me to get out of the place that I come from, and they see something in me that I didn’t see at the time. And you know, so growing up with them was a true blessing. And that that’s how I truly feel about my sisters. I love them all.”
Paul and the Razorbacks will hold a scrimmage on Saturday inside Reynolds Razorback Stadium with it open to the public beginning at 11 a.m.