I attended Joker Phillips’ Football Kick-off Luncheon at the Galt House in Louisville today. While I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t just the two of us sitting down over a nice bowl of pasta and a bottle of cabernet, I was very impressed with the turnout and all of the speakers.
Here are ten takeaways from the event:
(1) Joker wants to win championships. Championships. Championships. Championships. That’s almost all Joker talked about. He told the audience to quit laughing at the football team’s high goals, and to join them in the pursuit of championships. Joker said bowl games are nice, but he isn’t in the business to win bowl games. He wants to win championships.
(2) The emcee took a couple shots at Tom Jurich. Matt Jones was the emcee for the event and he took advantage of a couple openings to take shots at Louisville’s athletic director. First, he pointed out that the Courier-Journal was in attendance and he thanked Tom Jurich for allowing the newspaper to attend. Then, after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he likes when UK has events in Louisville, Matt said UK would come back more often if Jurich would let them use the Yum Center.
(3) Joker opened with a funny story. Joker told a story of meeting a confused young man while doing a media appearance earlier in the day. The young man said, “Good to meet you, coach, but, you know, I’m not really a Cardinal fan.” Apparently, he thought Joker was Charlie Strong. “I guess we all look alike,” Joker said. “But I’ll give Charlie the message,” he told him.
(4) There was a very long hair in my mashed potatoes. I didn’t complain. It probably just fell out of my eyebrows.
(5) Matt almost got Mitch Barnhart to laugh. Matt had a pretty good Billy Gillispie joke when talking about the new video system in Commonwealth Stadium. Matt said the new video boards were Barnhart’s only option because Billy Gillispie lost the old scoreboards in a Ponzi scheme. The joke went over great with the crowd, but Mitch could only put his head down and smile. “Mitch wants to laugh right now,” Matt added.
(6) That was an odd choice of music. A UK football video was played during the luncheon and I really liked it. However, the average age in the building was somewhere around 60 so I don’t know if Eminem and Nate Dogg’s “Til I Collapse” was a hit with the crowd for the video’s music.
(7) Joker tries to view his recruits like his bodyguards. “And you don’t want small bodyguards, right?” Joker was high on how physically fit the incoming freshmen are – and the whole team for that matter – and he continues to look for guys “he has to look up to.” He used Collins Ukwu as an example of a guy who has really developed his body. Collins was 6’5, 205 pounds when he was added as a late signee two and a half years ago. Now he is 60 pounds heavier at 260-270 pounds entering his junior season.
(8) “Randall Cobb wasn’t very good when we got him,” Joker said with a smile. “He was pretty darn good.”
(9) Joker called in-state recruiting the heart and soul of the program. Joker stressed the importance of winning the recruiting battles on Kentucky’s home turf, especially in the city of Louisville. He talked about the mission to take local kids, develop them, and put them in the NFL. Guys like Jacob Tamme, Keenan Burton, Myron Pryor, and Corey Peters are examples of homegrown talent now playing professionally.
(10) Freshmen will be called upon. Joker said to expect to see a lot of freshmen on the field this season. The young guys won’t be called upon to lead the team, but they are very crucial to the team’s depth, special teams, and filling a few empty holes in the lineup. He wouldn’t give any names as to which freshmen we’ll see the most of, but he did say there is a lot of playing time for the young guys at wide receiver and running back.