As a 21-year-old and a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, I admittedly don’t have memories of Art Still wreaking havoc in the backfield, Dermontti Dawson mauling defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, or Sonny Collins shattering rushing records. And while I’ve studied and analyzed plenty of film on guys like Tim Couch and Craig Yeast, even that was just before my time in terms of watching Kentucky games at Commonwealth Stadium and truly grasping the game of football.
And then came No. 22.
From the first moment I saw Jared Lorenzen play, I was hooked. Done for. The way he scrambled in and out of the pocket, flicked defenders off of him like flies, and rocketed the ball down the field with ease, it truly was poetry in motion for me. The sport was so fresh and new for me at the time, but the Hefty Lefty made me understand the craze. It just clicked for me. I got it. Jared was truly the reason I fell in love with football.
Not long after, I suited up on the football field for the very first time. Playing quarterback as a homegrown Kentucky kid who hadn’t quite lost his baby fat, Lorenzen was an obvious role model to me. In my eyes, if a guy like Jared could be a superstar athlete and write his name in the record books at Kentucky, what’s holding me back from finding a bit of success? I didn’t expect to become the next UK football legend, obviously, but I was at least inspired to give it all I had.
Fast forward three years from the end of his Kentucky career, and instead of being amazed by Jared’s on-field abilities, he was actually part of the reason why I cried for the first time during a sporting event. As a diehard New England Patriots fan (I had been for a whopping two seasons at that point, don’t judge me), Jared’s damned New York Giants ruined our potential 19-0 effort in 2007. I was heartbroken. Crushed. My little 10-year-old self simply couldn’t handle the pain, and Jared was a major part of it.
Thank you to the real hero of #SB42 @JaredLorenzen22
The referee ALMOST called the play dead.
Eli Manning ALMOST threw the ball to his offensive lineman.
The @nygiants ALMOST lost the game.#TheTimeline: #helmetcatch
Rp @NFLFilms #nflfilms @NFL pic.twitter.com/7EliKODF2q
— LPG – NYG (@LicensePlateGuy) February 1, 2018
When I got to college and started with KSR, Jared obviously had a significant role with us with podcasts, radio, pregame shows, and occasional posts here on the site. As excited as I was to get started with my writing and join such a close-knit group of individuals, part of the intrigue for me was that I would likely cross paths with No. 22 at some point. For starters, I wanted to tell him how much I idolized him as a kid and enjoyed watching him in his time at Kentucky. I wanted to thank him for inspiring me when I played.
Then, I wanted to flip him the ole bird for his Giants ruining New England’s perfect season.
That time finally came two years ago at the KSR Christmas Party, my first as part of the crew. Lorenzen was standing there with Freddie Maggard and Nick Roush, two of the only people in the room I had talked to on a fairly regular basis. Again, I was still brand new with the company, so I was admittedly a bit nervous to be there in the first place. I figured if I was going to meet my childhood idol, it’d be easiest to do it with two of my other KSR buds.
Star-struck, I hesitantly walked up to him and immediately gave him hell for his Super Bowl victory. I promised myself I would do it the first time I met him, and I was pretty proud of myself for following through with it.
But instead of the quick exchange I expected, Lorenzen sat there and talked to me for about 30 minutes, breaking down that horrendous game, what it’s like to take down the greatest quarterback in NFL history, showed me a picture of his ring (he wasn’t wearing it, unfortunately), and continued to talk about the league today. He rubbed it in my face as any Super Bowl champion should. I loved it.
Then, Kentucky’s all-time passing leader asked about me and my life. He wanted to know about school, what I was majoring in, what my goals were, how my time at KSR was going, and what I hoped to get out of it. It wasn’t just to check a box, Jared continued to give a young kid the same respect he would give to any of his closest peers. Thoughtful, genuine responses after thoughtful, genuine responses. He cared.
Why? I don’t know. He recognized my name, but he didn’t know me from Adam that night. I could’ve been anybody in the world, and that conversation still would have likely been the exact same with each and every one of them. After reading countless fan memories and notes since Wednesday afternoon, I’m sure of it. That’s just who Jared was. He may not have known you, but he was going to make you feel like you guys had been friends for years.
The thing is, it didn’t stop there. Every time I saw Jared out and about from that day on, he’d go out of his way to shake my hand and catch up. When I would write in-depth posts or game breakdowns on KSR, he’d reach out and let me know what he thought. A stranger quickly became a friend.
In four years at Kentucky, the Hefty Lefty threw for a program record 10,354 total yards and 78 touchdowns. On the field, he was one of the greatest players in school history and arguably the most beloved former football Wildcat of all time. His talent was evident, and he had the numbers to back it up.
Off the field, though, he was one of us. As much as he loved re-living his glory days with a microphone in his hands or a headset on, Jared was the exact same fun-loving guy off-air as he was on. He sat in the stands and cheered on touchdowns, screamed at missed calls, held his breath in high-pressure situations, and got down in the dumps over tough losses. If there was one individual who truly bled blue through and through, it was him.
Simply put, there will never be another guy like Jared both on and off the field.
It breaks my heart that I only got to know him for a few years, but I thank God I at least got that.
Rest easy, No. 22.