With Senior Bowl looming, Arkansas TE Jeremy Sprinkle opens up about shoplifting incident
Jeremy Sprinkle made a big mistake. There’s no other way to describe it.
Last December, the Arkansas senior was suspended for the team’s Belk Bowl appearance against Virginia Tech for what was later reported as unlawful concealment from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
Players on both teams were given $450 to spend in 90 minutes at Belk as part of their bowl-game swag, but despite the free gift, Sprinkle attempted to shoplift eight items worth $260 from the store.
Days later, he released this statement:
“To my family, friends, teammates, coaching staff, colleagues, the University of Arkansas, Razorback nation, the Belk Bowl, and, most of all, the young children that look up to me, I am truly sorry for this unfortunate and completely avoidable occurrence. I have embarrassed myself, my team, and my parents, who raised me to be an upstanding man of high moral character. …As with any setback, I will use it as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and be a better person going forward.”
One month later after the incident, Sprinkle will be one of the firsts to tell you that he not only severely damaged his own personal reputation, but also let his teammates down.
In preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft, Sprinkle joins a large list of standout seniors in Mobile, Alabama this week for the upcoming Senior Bowl. During this week’s festivities, he gave a one-on-one interview, which can be found on the Reese’s Senior Bowl homepage.
Reese’s Senior Bowl: One big part of this week here in Mobile is not only what you do on the field for the three practices but you’re going to meet with probably all 32 NFL teams and you’re going to have to answer a lot of questions. You created some questions with a mistake that you made on your bowl trip going to Belk. Tell me about that experience and what really happened there.
Sprinkle: It was an event where we had a shopping spree to Belk. What happened was I had some stuff in my bag that I checked out, so I was just walking around the store, you know, made the mistake of trying to be too greedy and putting extra stuff in my bag and just got caught up with it. You know, I’m just trying to take this opportunity to learn from it, become a better man from it and just look forward.
RSB: So it was just extra stuff that you had put in your bag? There wasn’t anything that you were trying to hide or anything mischievous that you were trying to do?
Sprinkle: Yes, sir.
RSB: I read your apology statement that you put out after that and obviously Coach Bielema is very supportive of you and he’s been supportive of you through that tough time. You mentioned specifically that you apologize to the young people that look up to you. How important is that?
Sprinkle: Just like I said earlier, just growing up in the state and little kids looking up to the Razorbacks and having favorite players and things like that. And then they have to read about something like that and why he missed the game. I had a lot of people disappointed in me and things like that and I just had to take that and just see what that feels like and just know that I never want to feel like that again. Just come out stronger from it.
At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Sprinkle’s massive presence was clearly missed in the Razorbacks’ 35-24 loss. After all, his impressive physicality and length had produced 60 receptions for 769 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last two seasons, including an SEC-best six receiving scores among tight ends during his junior campaign.
Prior to the event, Sprinkle could have made the case as a third- or fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. His tremendous frame and resume as a force on the line of scrimmage will make him a valuable asset as a run blocker at the next level.
Though CBS Sports has him projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, with a good pre-draft showing plenty more opportunities to apologize and defend himself to NFL executives and coaches, Sprinkle could still find himself back in the mix to come off the board late Day Two.
But without doubt, he must continue to take steps to proving that he’s personally grown from this immature act and is deserving to contribute at the game’s highest level.
The Senior Bowl will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. CT.