By Nate Olson
Since its peak in 1920, Clarendon has steadily lost population. People have consistently left the sleepy, rural Arkansas town, which at one time was teeming with industry.
In 1920, 2,638 residents called Clarendon home. By 1990, the number had dipped to 2,072. The latest census in 2019 shows an estimated population of 1,361.
Simply put, once people leave Clarendon, they never return.
Except Quincey McAdoo. The Clarendon High School senior left his hometown for Hazen, another small town in the area, in fourth grade. Five years later, he returned, but his heart always stayed there.
“When we left, I told my momma I didn’t want to graduate high school at Hazen,” he said. “Everybody in my family either graduated from Holly Grove or Clarendon. I didn’t want to break that. My grandma lives down the street (from Clarendon High School), so I was here as much I could be anyway.”
True to his word, he will graduate from high school in Clarendon in December. And not long after that, he will leave town, temporarily, to become just the second Lion since the 1990s to play football for the University of Arkansas. McAdoo caught new Hogs receivers coach Kenny Guiton’s eye after he already had committed to Florida State.
“I was excited — that is my dream,” he said. “Ever since I was little I wanted to go to Arkansas, but when I committed to Florida State, there was a reason behind that. (Former Arkansas wide receivers coach Justin Stepp) didn’t want to offer me at fist, but after I had committed to Florida State, I gave Coach Kenny Guiton a chance to recruit me. I just fell right back in love.”
Friends for life
McAdoo started playing pee-wee football in the first grade and a bond was formed with those teammates. It was those friendships that made him vow to return to his hometown after his mom and stepfather moved the family of six to Hazen.
When McAdoo was a ninth-grader, Hazen made a run to the Class 2A state championship game. He raised eyebrows after moving up to the varsity squad late in the season by scoring a touchdown in a 36-22 loss to Junction City. The performance also prompted his mom to propose another move — this time to Stuttgart, a town with a tradition-rich Class 4A football program and also home to the Lennox Industries plant at which she, her husband and her ex-husband, Quincey’s father, work.
Again, McAdoo balked.
“I’m not scared of going to new places,” he said, “but it was just the fact that I’d be playing with new faces. I’ve been grinding with these boys since I was little. I wouldn’t want to change that.”
McAdoo knows he is in the minority of folks who actually want to live in Clarendon so much that they would return. It’s a simple life but one he relishes.
“It is boring, but it keeps me out of a lot of trouble,” he said. “I just stay home, stay in the country. Not a lot to do.”
The familiar faces make the monotony and simplicity worth it.
“It’s a good feeling knowing everybody from seventh through 12th grade. You know everybody by first and last name and probably where they stay, too. It’s a very small school,” he said.
Living in a small town also ensures everyone knows your business, especially when you are a star athlete.
“It keeps you on the right path,” he said.
As much as McAdoo enjoys his friends, you won’t find him hanging out with them on Saturday nights. No, the entire crew will be at their separate homes playing video games, including Fortnite, Madden and NBA2K.
McAdoo’s younger brother, Tayelar, also joins the group from his bedroom down the hall from his older brother. Tayelar, a junior receiver/linebacker, is more to McAdoo than simply a sibling.
“We know we are brothers since we were little, but that is my best friend,” he said.
And even though Hogs fans from border to border know McAdoo’s name, it hasn’t changed him or how he interacts with his friends.
“We try not to let football get in the way of our friendship,” McAdoo said. “We’ve been friends since kindergarten. I am the same dude. I have never changed.”
McAdoo has two older brothers and two older sisters. Family means a great deal to him, as does the fact that his parents all get along.
“Since I first picked up a football, they have been right in these stands,” he said. “They were in the stands watching me play pee-wee running up and down the field. They knew my dream, and they have really watched me live my dream. They have been my No. 1 fan since I was little. All three of them play a special role in my life.”
Football dream becomes reality
The last time the Lions won a conference title, in 1998, the squad was led by star running back Cedric Houston.
Houston, now an assistant coach at Barton High School, became a three-year starter at the University of Tennessee. He and Gerald Riggs Jr. were the first Volunteers backfield mates to both run for 1,000 yards in a season. Houston played two seasons in the NFL with the New York Jets.
“(Houston) put on a camp for the pee-wee players, and I remember just being in awe of him,” said McAdoo, who is distantly related to Houston by marriage. “I knew that is what I wanted to do.”
Even at that age, McAdoo’s ability stood out.
“I’ve always been the fastest on my team,” he said.
But even with exceptional talent and seeing what Houston had done at Tennessee, McAdoo wondered if he was good enough or if a major college program would find him.
Then, there was the state championship game with Hazen. McAdoo had two catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Those were the only two receptions made by Hazen that night.
“When I was in ninth grade, that is when I started taking it seriously,” he said.
That’s also when McAdoo made a decision that would jump-start his college recruiting. He began playing 7-on-7 football tournaments with a team based in Memphis, Tenn. After starring in a tournament in Tulsa, Okla., he started getting phone cals from Stepp, the Arkansas receivers coach at the time.
“After my 10th-grade season when I started getting recruited is when I realized, ‘I can really do something with this,’” he said.
But Stepp wouldn’t offer McAdoo a scholarship. That left him choosing Florida State. Eventually, he had offers from Auburn, Oregon, Oklahoma, Houston and more. When Guiton was added to UA coach Sam Pittman’s staff last offseason, he began recruiting McAdoo and made him an offer. McAdoo committed in April.
“(Guiton) most definitely keeps it real,” he said. “He isn’t going to sugarcoat anything. He is going to let you know what you need to work on.”
Until Arkansas’ game with Texas last month, McAdoo had never seen a Hogs game in person. The excitement of the dominant Hogs win left a lasting impression.
“It was crazy,” McAdoo said. “There were 75,000 people there. I had never seen that in my life. That was my first Razorback football game, too. Horns down always.
“I am just excited for it; they treat the Hogs so well. We don’t have a pro team, so that is probably why. (The coaches) told me to take it all in and get ready for it because that is what it is going to be like when I get here.”
An early start
Even though he has much of his senior season at Clarendon remaining, the visit prompted McAdoo to look ahead to his early enrollment and spring practice. He talked with Guiton extensively.
“Coach told me I would play outside receiver and to keep working on my craft,” he said.
McAdoo, who is 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, knows he also needs to pack weight on his frame.
“The difference with him going (to Fayetteville) in January is he is fixing to have 10 strength coaches working with him every day, and when he goes to practice, he is going to be working at receiver,” Clarendon first-year coach Mark Courtney said. “Not receiver, quarterback, running back, punter, kick returner, kickoff team and pop the corn and drive the bus. He does it all here. He will have a lot of time to focus on getting better at receiver and getting stronger.”
The head start could help McAdoo see the field as a freshman — at least that’s what he’s hoping.
“That should be everybody’s goal,” he said. “All freshmen should want to play right away.”
Another small-town receiver came to Arkansas with the same hopes and dreams as McAdoo. Warren’s Treylon Burks has become one of the best receivers in the country and has caught McAdoo’s eye since he stepped on campus.
“It is a very fair comparison between the two,” Courtney said. “Treylon was a little heavier in high school.”
Courtney knows Burks well as his older son, Seth, played baseball with him and spent some down time with him while visiting longtime friend and former Warren assistant Chad Brown.
“(Burks) is one of my bigger inspirations,” McAdoo said. “If he can do it, I know I can do it.”
A new coach
Courtney is new to Clarendon, but he isn’t green when it comes to coaching Division I stars. The former Arkansas State offensive lineman from Little Rock cut his teeth in coaching at East Poinsett County in northeast Arkansas. His star player there was Marcus Monk, who starred at Arkansas and played a bit in the NFL. Monk texts Courtney’s younger son, Dax, often and is considered part of the family.
At Dumas, Courtney coached Chris and Will Gragg. Chris transferred to Warren and then played at Arkansas and eventually with the Buffalo Bills. Will played tight end at Dumas and the University of Pittsburgh. Courtney also coached Darion Griswold, who made the transition from quarterback to tight end at ASU and briefly played in the NFL.
“Marcus is the smartest kid I’ve ever had, Kendall Council (Dumas receiver) was the fastest kid I’ve had, and the Graggs were very good, but when you get Quincey compared to those, Quincey has all the tools,” Courtney said. “Marcus was not as fast as Quincey. Chris Gragg was not as fast as Quincey. All of their hands were good because they have to be exceptional to be recruited at that level. Quincey does some things I can’t coach and some things they can’t coach at (Arkansas). Just God-given talents that when you do this 25 years, and you see a kid do this, it is amazing.
“I have seen a lot of high school football and a lot of athletes. Quincey is a different kind of guy.”
Courtney said one day in practice he paired “a fast kid” against McAdoo in a one-on-one receiving drill, and the teammate had blanket coverage on McAdoo, but McAdoo caught the ball anyway.
“He just knows how to use his body to get separation, and he just went up, up and up and up,” Courtney said. “It looked like he wasn’t going to make the catch, and he did. It’s just a special talent to be able to do something like that. That play showed it.”
As soon as former Clarendon coach Dusty Meek left to take the principal job at Wynne High School in the spring, McAdoo was lobbying for Courtney.
Not only did he like Courtney’s track record at EPC, Dumas and DeWitt, but he’d bring his son Dax, also a UA commit, with him.
“We were all excited getting him as our head coach,” McAdoo said. “When we found out who was up for the job, we all wanted him. We are just blessed that we got him.”
Dax Courtney, a tight end, injured his knee in the opener against Barton, but that hasn’t kept him from forging a friendship with McAdoo, with whom he likely will room as a freshman.
“That’s my guy,” Dax Courtney said. “No. 1, he is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He’s hilarious. As far as his game, he is probably the best high school player I’ve ever seen in person. I was hurt in the Barton game, so I got to watch most of it, and it was one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen in my lifetime.
“Just his ability to do everything. He’s as fast of a guy as I’ve seen. His hands are ridiculous, his route running is good, and he is physical. He will come down and hit you from safety, and my biggest thing on him is his elusiveness. To catch it on a kickoff return and be able to dodge 11 people, some of them twice, without even getting touched — that is very, vey impressive to me.”
The team has responded to the veteran coach. The Lions are 4-1. Clarendon’s only loss came to McCrory, which was No. 1 in most Class 2A polls at the time.
“He’s a great coach,” McAdoo said. “Everyone believes we can win.”
Leaving on a high note
While the state championship game experience at Hazen was fleeting, it did stick with McAdoo.
“That’s what we are trying to do this year,” McAdoo said. “It motivates me a lot. Every day we are out here trying to grind and get to Week 15 playing football.
“Everybody that plays high school football, it is their dream to play in the state championship game.”
And McAdoo isn’t leaving any stone unturned. While some college recruits might shy away from pulling double duty, McAdoo relishes Class 2A two-platoon football. In addition to receiver, he lines up at running back and quarterback on offense and safety on defense. He also kicks and punts and returns kicks.
“The loyalty for the person beside me,” McAdoo said. “Whatever I need to do to help them or my team is what I am going to do. If you put me at nose guard, I am going to do my best.”
In a town that has lost so much over the years, McAdoo knows the significance of winning a state title.
“It would mean so much to everyone here,” he said. “That’s all (the players) think about every Friday. We want to get these games out of the way and get to Week 15. We are trying to make it to Week 15, if that is the last thing we do.”
And if Clarendon doesn’t win a state title, McAdoo still won’t have any regrets about returning.
“I have a lot of brothers (in Clarendon),” he said. “I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.”