As the Wildcats approach their last bowl game on Sunday night, fans should take a moment to reflect on just how impressive a fourth straight bowl game is for the University of Kentucky. Beginning in 2006, the Cats began a turn around that has re-energized the fans and advanced UK past doormat status within the SEC. One of the key players for that stretch one, and a player that has participated in every season since 2006, has been Trevard Lindley.
The cornerback out of Hiram, Georgia was offered scholarships from Cincinnati, Illinois, and North Carolina but, thankfully, chose the Wildcats. Lindley was considered a dark horse recruit as he missed most of his high school senior season with a dislocated knee. The excitement regarding his talent was tempered by concerns regarding his health and durability. As a redshirt, the 6-foot, 179 pound defender watched the Wildcats suffer through a 3-8 campaign that had become typical fair for UK. Rich Brooks ended his third season as HC with a 9-25 record and a growing rumble for change. Losses to the likes of Louisville, Indiana, and Mississippi left the fanbase sullen and pessimistic regarding the prospect of any improvement. We didn’t know what was coming.
Lindley began his career with a bang. UK’s version of Deion Sanders played in all 13 games as a freshman while collecting 2 interceptions, 52 total tackles, and 12 pass break-ups. The highlight of the cornerback’s debut season was a game clinching interception of future NFL quarterback Matthew Stafford to seal a win over the Georgia Bulldogs. In UK’s first bowl victory since the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl, the star frosh notched an interception and a fumble recovery.
Lindley was a key component in a watershed 2007 season. During the Louisville game, on the first play, Lindley intercepted a Brian Brohm pass and returned it 33 yards to setup a touchdown and set the tone for a UK win over the #9 ranked Cardinals. Lindley continued his heroics by securing a win over Arkansas when he forced an interception and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. During the triple overtime win over eventual national chamion LSU, Lindley provided a crucial spark with an interception that setup the game tying field goal in regulation (Quick aside: One of the most bizarre headlines from the 2007 season–UK Upset by #15 Florida. When is the next time you will see such?). In UK’s second consecutive bowl win, #32 forced a fumble and broke up three passes.
After a successful 2008 season, highlighted by a huge interception against Louisville and the distinction of being one of only two people to intercept Tim Tebow that year, the general thinking was that Lindley would declare for the NFL draft. Due to a shoulder injury (thus inhibiting his ability to work out for NFL scouts) and a desire to get stronger, Lindley returned for his senior year. Unfortunately, a high ankle sprain forced Lindley to miss four games and limited his effectiveness. Despite playing in only 8 games, #32 still recorded a touchdown after an interception, 29 total tackles, and 7 broken up passes.
Regarding Lindley’s individual accolades, I have to be honest. When it comes to football awards, I get totally lost. There are so many overlapping titles and subtitles on every award that it makes your head spin trying to figure it all out. Couple that with the fact that every other sportswriter seems to have their own All-American title to bestow and you can go blind trying to figure out who received what and when. So did he get the Third Team Phil Steele All-American Award or the SEC Coaches All-Conference Freshman First Team honor or The Sporting News Second Team All-Paladin bubble defender of the week? All three? Who knows? Let’s just say that Lindley was chosen for multiple All-American honors for multiple years and is one of the most feared and respected cornerbacks in the nation. I can think of no higher compliment than the one Rich Brooks gave to Trevard before this season:
Trevard Lindley, simply put, can line up against any receiver in the country one-on-one. And we would have a very optimistic feeling that he’s going to cover ’em pretty darn good the whole game, not allow a lot of big plays. He not only can cover, he can make plays. He can intercept the ball. He can recover it on fumbles and run it for a touchdown, like he did at Arkansas two years ago. He’s made as many big plays on the defensive side probably as any defensive player in Kentucky in the last 15 or 20 years.
On Sunday, we will say our farewell to one of the baddest cornerbacks to ever play for the University of Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference. Tip your cap to the man. We will miss him and look forward to seeing him play in the NFL.