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How to Interact With Athletes on Campus



Today was the first day of school for all you UK students out there, and this rite of passage wouldn’t be complete without a pop quiz. Hypothetical scenario: it’s your first day of college. You’ve got your backpack full of books that you probably won’t need, your lunch money jangling happily in your pocket, and you’ve successfully avoided your mom’s request for a “first day of school” picture for the fridge (“Honey, why can’t you just ask your roommate to take it?”). You’re strolling merrily along Limestone, minding your own business, when all of the sudden- you see Nerlens Noel. How do you react?


(A) Immediately run up, ask for a picture with him, and throw your three goggles with abandon. CHEESE!

(B) Stare. Just outright stare. He doesn’t look that tall on television…

(C) Casual head nod (“sup, bro?”), then continue on your path. Ain’t no thang.


Correct Answer: (C). Lezzbehonest: in real life, most freshmen would do A or B. But, newsflash: as starstruck as you may be by the shadow cast by Nerlen’s flattop, he’s technically your peer now. YOU ARE THE SAME AGE AS HIM (and I’m almost five years older. Practically a dinosaur, or Digger Phelps). Sure, some athletes may be just one year away from professional careers and thousands in endorsements, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like a creep around them. So for all the freshmen reading this, here’s a handy guide for how to appropriately interact with athletes on campus- so that you don’t stick out even more than you already do (lose the lanyards, though. For real).


DO: Treat athletes like normal human beings. Use this as a guiding principle for every time you are within the vicinity of a UK athlete. Would you ask for the autograph of the girl next to you in Psych 101? No? Then don’t do it if you happen to find yourself sitting next to Alex Poythress in class.


DON’T: Bother them if they have their Beats on. Everyone knows the universal law of earbuds: if someone has earbuds in, it is physically impossible to break the sound barrier and talk to them. With athletes and Beats, this rule is multiplied ten-fold. Beats might as well be a huge “DO NOT DISTURB” sandwich board around their necks. Don’t mess.


This fan broke the Law of Headphones and lived to tell the tale. 


DO: Follow Josh Hopkins’ words of wisdom. In his second post, “Meeting John Wall,” Josh confesses how nervous he was at approaching John Wall for a picture while at a bar in LA. He strategically planned his approach- said hi as he walked by, asked if he could get a quick picture after dinner, then follow through once Wall was about to leave. Polite, uninterfering, and not at all stalkerish (save for the slightly neurotic running commentary occurring inside Josh’s head at the time). If you absolutely MUST get a picture with your favorite UK player, follow Josh’s example.




DON’T: Ask for pictures while they’re going to class, in the act of eating, or seem otherwise occupied. Acceptable photo ops? Public places (WalMart, Kroger, Orange Leaf), the blue courts, leaving dining establishments, and fund-raising events.


DO: Occassionally feed into the “Big Men On Campus” hype. By this, I mean that after an athlete has an outstanding play or record-breaking game, stroke the egos a little bit. For example, cheering Matt Roark’s walk to class the Monday after the Tennessee game- totally fine. Starting a “Da-vis! Da-vis! Da-vis!” slow clap at Ovids after the UNC block- probably necessary. Part of the fun of attending a big-time athletic school like UK is the infectious enthusiasm floating around campus when a team is on a roll. Embrace it when it’s deserved.


DON’T: Heckle players after a poor showing. The necessary corrollary to my previous point. Every now and then, a player or team has an off night. They will probably recognize this. Their coaches will definitely recognize this. Frankly, they don’t need you to let them know how much you didn’t appreciate them choking the weekend before. Keep it to yourself.


And finally…


DO: Relish the “Athletes are people, too!” moments. Savor running into Wiltjer and Polson at Graeter’s. Giggle to yourself when you watch Archie Goodwin ride his scooter to class. Take a mental snapshot when you see LaRod King eating Ramen straight out of the cup. Again, one of the perks of going to a school like UK is seeing athletes before they’re pros and having some common ground with them, if only for a year or two. Enjoy it while you can.



Article written by Kristen Geil

16 Comments for How to Interact With Athletes on Campus

  1. Musehobo
    8:16 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Kristen, you add some much needed spunk to the site.

  2. ukfan
    8:41 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    When I first met John Wall on campus he was ordering food before class with his headphones on.. I didn’t give a damn! lol

  3. 44 Stitches
    8:42 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Good to see Harrow rocking a Atlanta Hawks shirt since he’s from just outside A’town and isn’t bandwagon rocking some other teams shirt.

  4. Dickie Z
    8:45 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    I saw Noel walking out of class with Wiltjer and Polson yesterday. Hanging out with them should help his GPA.

  5. EyewearMan
    9:04 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Most of us Grown Men who read this site aren’t walking the halls with them! But if we see them out and about, we may just ask for an autograph or a pic. High Profile Athletes should expect that.

  6. Ridge Runner
    9:04 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Kristen…nice post again!

    4- Judging by him graduating HS a year early, –don’t think he needs much help.

  7. Ridge Runner
    9:09 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    5-I’m 51 years old and all grown up too. However, I think Kristens nails it by recommending we use courtesy and judgement when we ask for an autograph. Mature people should expect that.

  8. EyewearMan
    9:13 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    7 – I don’t disagree, I just am not sure many college freshmen are reading this site!

  9. Kristen Geil
    9:25 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    This was originally posted on the college site, hence why it was addressed to college students! i think the guidelines still apply though… and I think more college freshmen read the main site than you think! Thanks!

  10. bigblue93
    9:29 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    have a communications class with harrow and goodwin.. Decided not to bother Archie because he had beats on but I did get a pretty sweet head nod from Harrow

  11. Ridge Runner
    9:29 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    At my age, I have made more than my share of mistakes. The few things I have learned is when seeing or learning about something that perhaps wasn’t targeted directly to my genre or specific group. To be honest.

    Yup, bottom line is we all can apply those guidelines.

  12. BoydCat
    9:50 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    I haven’t seen anyone yet this week but my first day of college last year Anthony and Teague were an arms length away. I also saw Lamb during my orientation. It was always cool to see them because it’s like seeing an NBA player. I never bothered any of them. But I did get a head nod from Joker one day.

  13. I Say
    9:55 am August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Really funny piece Kristen, but im sorry, you best believe im getting a picture or at least getting them daps if i see them out. Im about crapped myself last year when davis and wiltjer walked in our house.

  14. kdh1716
    12:42 pm August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Sometimes it is a good thing to remember that these people have lives and interests apart from sports. A number of years ago, I met a Hall of Fame NFL QB at a social function. I made point of not talking to him about football or his team or asking him for an autograph. Instead, we found ourselves in a conversation about Monty Python and British humor. Over thirty years later, he is still a friend and in all those years I don’t think we have had four conversations about football.

  15. UKGrad04
    3:36 pm August 23, 2012 Permalink

    Great job, Kristen.

  16. UKGrad12
    10:42 pm August 23, 2012 Permalink

    This is a great post. It is so funny how freshman are star struck ( I was), and then you become a senior and you just act like they are normal people. They are normal too, they put their pants on the same way everyone else does, one leg at a time. When they put their pants on in a year they will just be making millions of dollars. Keep up great posts like this!