It’s that time of the week once again, loyal KSR reader. Time for my weekly homage to Luke McDermott, the Southeastern Conference’s single most fearsome 265 pound walk-on defensive tackle. In this week’s episode, our hero adds intercepting passes to his already legendary defensive repertoire in the Cats 63 to 28 romp over the state’s second best football program. (No offense intended, Murray State.) I recognize that we are just two missions into Operation Win, and I do not generally choose to participate in typical media over-hype and hyperbole, but the case can be made at this point, with apologies to Danny Trevathan, that Luke McDermott has been Kentucky’s most productive defensive player.
In two games, McDermott has totaled 4.5 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack, as well as the aforementioned interception. If these numbers are extrapolated over a 12 game season, McDermott is on pace to produce 27 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 6 interceptions. (O.k, I’m guessing even Luke’s mom would find the 6 picks to be a bit ambitious.) At first glance, these numbers seem impressive, but not extraordinary. However, defensive tackle is not a position that tends to generate monster statistics. In fact, one can be extremely productive at the position without recording any measurables. Thus to understand the significance of McDermott’s numbers, we need some historical perspective. For that, we turn to three standout defensive tackles of recent Kentucky history: Corey Peters, Mryron Pryor and Dewayne Robertson.
Peters parlayed an All-Conference year in 2009 into a third round NFL draft selection by the Atlanta Falcons. Those who watched the Cats with any regularity in 2009 will agree that with the possible exception of Randall Cobb, Peters was Kentucky’s MVP. And just what numbers did Mr. Peters produce to earn ALL-SEC honors and a Falcons payday? 56 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.
In 2008, Peters’ running mate along the Wildcat defensive front was Myron Pryor. Pryor also earned an NFL check based on his play for the Cats, much to the dismay of Carson Palmer, who felt the wrath of the big fella this Sunday. So what numbers did Mr. Personality Bill Belichick plug into his secret computer before drafting Mr. Pryor? His final year for the Cats produced 36 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
The most acclaimed, and wealthiest member of the Kentucky tackle tiumvirate remains Dewayne Robertson. This Memphis native rested just temporarily in the dorms at UK before setting up permanent residence in opposing backfields during his time with the Cats. His stellar play on otherwise poor defenses led to Robertson being the fourth overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. Just what type of numbers does it take for a defensive tackle to get selected that early? Robertson’s final year with the Cats generated 48 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.
So what, exactly, is the point of this defensive tackle history lesson? It is only this: through two games of the 2010 season, the previously anonymous Luke McDermott is on pace to equal, and in some areas surpass, the statistical milestones of the greatest Kentucky players of the last two decades at his position. And whether the tidal wave that Luke has ridden so deftly to this point has crested or not is almost immaterial. Even if he never produces again to the level he has in games one and two, McDermott has been an inspirational story of heart and determination to this point. To paraphrase the surly groundskeeper from Rudy, he’s six foot nuthin’, 200 and nuthin’, and it makes no difference. On Saturdays, Luke McDermott is a football player, and an awfully good one.
Stand by for more shameless cheerleading next week.