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January 27, 2013
Newton (Texas) cornerback D.J. Dean knew his final decision would come soon when Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash extended an offer late Monday evening.
Dean, 5-11, 175, 4.5, made it official with the Hogs on Sunday, turning down offers from Baylor, Illinois, Washington State, SMU and several others.
"(The SEC is) the best competition in college football in the last seven years and that's where the championships come from," Dean said Monday evening. "I like playing against the best that I can compete against. I'm real big on competition."
Robert Hatton, a defensive coach at Newton High, had high praise for Dean both on and off the field.
"D.J. grew up with our football team. He was our ball boy when he was in elementary school and he's always been around the program," Hatton said. "Every time we'd come in at halftime you'd have to get him out of the position meetings, because he was right there in the middle of it.
"As far as a person, not football, he's very responsible. His mom and dad both are real involved parents and very supportive of the athletic programs and coaches. There never was any, 'Y'all ain't doing D.J. right' like you see sometimes with parents. They're as tough if not tougher on him than we are. He was raised right, is what I'm trying to say.
"He's got a real good work ethic. We do a tire drill to warm up with every day and he's always the first in line and is a leader by example. Not a real rah-rah guy, but he was a great leader for us. Of course, he was our quarterback and just started playing quarterback for us last year."
Hatton said he believes the Razorbacks are getting a true shut-down corner.
"I had him at outside linebacker, but we found out real quick that he's a cover guy," the coach said. "Each week we'd pinpoint the best receiver and he knew that was his guy.
"He made a name for himself last year when we played Crockett. Their receiver (former four-star prospect Dominique Wheeler), he's at Texas Tech now, he was a blue-chipper that everybody wanted. TCU was there to see him and it just so happened that he drew D.J. that night. He caught one little bubble screen and that was it. D.J. intercepted him on one play and locked him down on the three other times. Word got out in a hurry."
Hatton expected Dean to commit to Arkansas during the official visit because he knew how much the cornerback wanted to play in the nation's top conference.
"It's SEC competition," Hatton said. "I don't care what kind of game we have down here, he's probably the most intense player we have. He loves competition. I'm excited to see what he's going to do up there."
Dean originally committed to Utah last year but ultimately decided against the long distance from home. As a senior, he posted over 40 tackles and had five interceptions. He also was responsible for over 2,000 yards of offense and 31 touchdowns as a quarterback.
Dean has family in Little Rock and Hope, and two of his family members, Greg Gatson Sr. and Greg Gatson Jr., both played their college ball in Fayetteville. Dean's uncle, Kevin Dean, played linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers.
Arkansas now has a total of 14 commitments including a pair of cornerbacks in Dean and junior college transfer Carroll Washington, who enrolled at mid-term.