From KSR College’s Tyler Johnson…
While researching UK’s football recruiting class prior to Signing Day, I realized that one of those recruits comes from the same part of the state that I hail from. Jacob Hyde is a senior at Clay County High School, a small southeastern Kentucky town that is only about a 20 minute drive from my hometown of London. I was lucky enough to get in contact with Jacob and he graciously agreed to give up some of his time to sit down with me and talk about signing with UK, his thoughts on Coach Stoops and the feeling of achieving something most Kentucky boys only dream about accomplishing. Read the interview below and remember Jacob’s name; I have a feeling we will be talking about him for years to come.
Tyler Johnson: First I have to ask you about the story that you permanently bent the bar while weightlifting. Is that true?
Jacob Hyde: Uh, yeah I was squatting, going into my junior year. I had like 675-680 and it was max that day and I almost got it. I came down and it permanently bent the bar and we can’t use it anymore. It was a crazy thing to see, though, knowing that you done it yourself.
TJ: When did you realize that you could play at the college level and how did that change your focus on football?
JH: I came in as a freshman and told myself I could do it, and Coach Mark Deaton and his wife Anne took me under their wing starting in 8th grade and I saw I had the help and they pushed me. I had the mindset I wasn’t going to play any college ball below Division 1.
TJ: So, how does it feel going from a small town like Manchester to signing with UK? I’d say the whole county is cheering for you.
JH: Yeah, it’s great, we have a lot of negative stuff and this helps give the county a positive attitude, just something positive. Everything you see is always negative on the news or something is going wrong down here, but I mean, just being a role model and something the people can look up to, you know.
TJ: I read that you volunteered at God’s Closet in Clay County and I’ve talked to a couple people and they just rave about how nice of a person you are and a good kid. Is being a positive role model pretty important to you?
JH: I mean, yeah, not many kids around here have anybody to look up to, or if they do it’s someone that’s famous that they’ll probably never get to meet, you know. There’s no sense in being stuck up and cocky and arrogant about playing Division 1 ball. You can be proud of yourself but you don’t have to be mean. Just stay humble and be nice to everybody.
TJ: So what was it about UK that made you choose to play for the Wildcats? What drew you to Kentucky?
JH: It has been a childhood dream of mine and it is always been a place where I’d say, “Hey mom, I’m going to play there one day,” and she would be like, “Alright son, I’ll be there to cheer you on.” My coach and his wife are big UK fans and, I mean, how many 18 or 19 year old kids can say they’ve fulfilled one of their childhood dreams? It’s close to home, that’s a big deal to me, I don’t care to travel (back home), and plus I’ve got family in Lexington so if I get home sick or just want a home-cooked meal, it’s just a drive down the road.
TJ: You actually committed to UK under Joker Phillips, the former coach, but I heard that Coach Stoops called you almost as soon as he got hired and talked to you about wanting to keep you on. What did he tell you that made you believe he was the right fit for you, and for UK going forward?
JH: He called me 2 days after being hired. That says a lot about a guy coming in for a head coaching job to call a commit after being hired for 2 days. I was freaking out, afraid they wouldn’t honor my commitment. He called and said he was honoring my commitment and couldn’t wait to come down here and meet me. That was a big thing; he has a really good background. Look at what he did at Florida State in four years. He’s a defensive minded kind of guy, he took Florida St. from being ranked 108th (nationally) when he got there to #1 in the country (defensively). So, he can coach ball.
TJ: You played in a couple of All-Star games (USA Football’s International Bowl and National Guard Border Bowl). What were those like?
JH: The Border Bowl, I’ve been looking forward to playing in that since I was a freshman and I was lucky enough and blessed to play in it. I got to play with those kind of kids, they’re top dogs at their high school, you put us all on a team, it’s untelling what we can do. It was great meeting those guys and building relationships with them. The one in Texas, it was great. Everybody is on the same level; just about everyone on the team is going to play Division 1 football somewhere. You know, you figure, you put a bunch of guys like that in one place, nobody is going to talk to each other, and everybody is too cocky and arrogant, thinking they’re too good. No way. That’s a big negative. We still text and Facebook each other, and heck, we wanted to stay another week if we could! I mean, I built a really close bond with those guys and hopefully before school starts I’ll get to go see some of those guys back in their hometown.
TJ: How memorable was Signing Day for you? I’d bet you had a ton of people congratulating you on a real dream come true that day.
JH: It was a really memorable moment. You only sign like this once in your life. It was great, I had a lot of congratulations; my Facebook and Twitter were blowing up. (laughs)
TJ: I don’t know if you know this or not, but you became an instant fan favorite on signing day after I found a picture of you riding a lawnmower into prom. (Original post here.) I put that on the site and everyone loved it. Was that the best entrance at prom that night or did someone try to top you?
JH: Me and JR Gray (Senior Center for Clay County) and Joey Dezarn (Senior WR for Clay County), we’re all seniors, we got together last year and just said, “Hey, nobody’s ever done this, so were going to do it.” So, we all got zero-turn lawnmowers and rode them into prom and everyone went crazy. I was wondering who put the picture up of that. You’re a smart man. (laughs)
TJ: You think Coach Stoops will let you help cut the grass at Commonwealth next year or you think that’s a no go?
JH: (laughs) I don’t know, I mean, I could show them a few things. I can show them how to sling a little grass.
TJ: So, other than being excited to play for UK and in the SEC, what else are you looking forward to when you actually get to Lexington and classes get started?
JH: Just meeting everybody, from all the different cities and cultures. It will probably be a big culture shock; I’m a small town country boy going to a big city. I’ve also got family down there and a lot of help. The big transformation will be making it from a dream to a reality. Hopefully, I’ll be looking forward to some early playing time and a bowl game.
TJ: Definitely. I have one more question for you. At KSR, we love to give our favorite players nicknames. So, is there a specific nickname that you want to be called or that you’re already being called that you want the readers of KSR to know you by? I’m giving you the first chance to make that nickname.
JH: (laughs) People in town call me Hyde or Big Hyde, or when I go play in All-star games it’s Big Country.
I’m making that decision for him. Welcome aboard, Big Country.