FAYETTEVILLE — Adam McFain wasn’t on Arkansas’ 105-man roster when the Razorbacks began preseason practice in August.

FAYETTEVILLE — Adam McFain wasn’t on Arkansas’ 105-man roster when the Razorbacks began preseason practice in August.


Instead, McFain was working a part-time job, attending classes and kicking a football at Fayetteville High. He was waiting for his opportunity to join Arkansas’ 120-man roster, but it couldn’t come until after fall semester classes began.


"It was tough for me, but the year before I also was not in the 105," McFain said. "So both years I went to Fayetteville High School to kick. I’d just go out there and kick by myself. I met some kids out there that were trying to walk-on. Just working hard."


The August absence hasn’t hurt the former Greenwood High place kicker, however, as Arkansas (4-4, 0-4 in SEC) prepares to travel to play No. 1 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. McFain has worked his way into Arkansas’ place kicking job, securing the position with a 49-yard field goal on his first career attempt in last week’s 45-17 win against Alabama-Birmingham.


So McFain will enter Saturday’s game as Arkansas kicker on all field goals and extra points for the second straight week, replacing senior John Henson. He’ll also handle Arkansas’ kickoffs, a spot he has held firm to over the past few games.


It wasn’t a likely workload for the walk-on with Henson and Parade All-American freshman Cole Hedlund battling for place-kicking duties in the preseason. But Arkansas holder Matthew Emrich said the Razorbacks trust in their new kicker after watching him work and improve at his craft over the past several weeks.


"He’s always had a strong leg, but he’s really pulling it together now," Emrich said. "He’s kicking the ball as well as I’ve seen it kicked. He’s hot. We’re going to ride him."


McFain’s rise may appear rapid on the surface, but has taken plenty of time.


His kicking career began in eighth grade, when McFain followed the path of many soccer players. He gave football a try. The first attempt didn’t go so well — in fact, McFain said he hit an offensive lineman in the back of the head — but he improved.


He went 14 for 17 on field goals and 69 for 72 on extra points during his senior season at Greenwood High, setting the state’s single-season record for points by a kicker (111). Greenwood High coach Rick Jones said McFain was talented enough as an athlete to help at other positions, but could never coax him into


"He was a good player," Jones said. "He was an excellent soccer player. All he did for us was kick. We tried to get him several times to go play DB or wide receiver or something, but he really liked kicking and really wanted to focus on that."


McFain had opportunities to play college soccer, but said he wanted to go to Arkansas for academic reasons. McFain had football plans as well.


"I came in as a walk-on my freshman year," McFain said about the 2012 season. "Just came in the first day and tried out. Since then I’ve just been working hard and trying to get the position. … I had high hopes for myself and just tried to reach those goals."


It wasn’t easy, though, with record-setting kicker Zach Hocker on campus an entrenched at the position in 2012 and 2013. It didn’t look good for 2014, either, when Hedlund signed with the program and Henson was put on scholarship because of his productive preseason camp.


That didn’t stop McFain from working and waiting for an opportunity.


"I think he was sorely disappointed when he didn’t make the 105, but instead of giving up on his dream he probably worked harder," Jones said. "What’s interesting about kickers is we always say just keep your head down. That’s what he did. He just kept his head down, kept working, kept doing what the coaches asked him to do."


The door began to open for McFain when Arkansas struggled in the kicking game earlier this season. Henson went 2 for 4, but his longest field goal was a 22-yarder.


Bielema began considering Henson for short field goals and McFain, who had been kicking off, for longer ones. He actually got the call against Alabama, lining up for a field goal on Oct. 11. But there was no attempt because Emrich couldn’t cleanly pull down a high snap from Alan D’Appollonio and had to scramble.


McFain did get the call on extra points the next week, though, when Henson had his second one blocked in consecutive games. He want 2-for-2 against the Bulldogs and moved into the position full-time. But he was still waiting for a field goal attempt.


"It’s been pretty frustrating for a couple weeks, because I was out there (against Alabama) and we had the high snap and then there was an interception," McFain said. "And I thought I would get a chance (against UAB), but we had Sebastian Tretola with that awesome play. Then I finally got my shot, and it was a big one."


McFain had no trouble booting a 49-yarder through the uprights in the third quarter, helping Arkansas extend its lead. He went 6 for 6 on extra points as well.


"The thing about him is he gets a lot of height and on the ball very, very quickly," Bielema said. "You look at that 49-yard field goal you take it from the back end, I mean, it’s straight smoking right down the pipe, right down the middle."


The success didn’t surprise Arkansas wide receiver Drew Morgan, who also played with McFain at Greenwood High.


"I was really pumped when he hit it," Morgan said. "It took me back to high school and he hit the one against Camden Fairview in overtime. He’s clutch."


McFain will get other opportunities to make a difference as Arkansas dives back into SEC play, beginning with Saturday’s road trip to Mississippi State. The Razorbacks are trying to snap a 16-game SEC losing streak.


Field goals and extra points could make a big difference in Arkansas’ upset hopes. If so, Bielema believes McFain will be ready to perform under pressure after testing him throughout practices. McFain is confident it won’t be a problem, either.


"I just go out there and do my thing," McFain said. "I don’t even really realize the crowd noise. It’s just me, the ball, my snapper and holder. It’s just like practice."


No one will know for sure until he’s put in that position, of course. But McFain welcomes the challenge.


After all, the kicker wasn’t even part of Arkansas’ 105-man roster when preseason practices began. He finally earned his role and doesn’t plan on relinquishing it.


"Dreams do come true," McFain said. "I’m just out here living it."