Merriam Webster describes a “savage” as one “not domesticated or under human control.” Untamed, fierce, ferocious. Malicious, wild, uncultivated.
Kentucky senior defensive end Bud Dupree describes a savage as someone who will “do anything when he’s hungry.” Dupree adheres to that mentality so much that he writes the word on his wrist tape every single day before practice. “It’s just a mentality you’ve gotta have on the field, on defense, and all football players in general,” Dupree says. “A savage does anything when he’s hungry.”
Getting everyone to play like a savage has been Bud’s priority since last season. With Avery Williamson, previously the heart and soul of the Kentucky defense, off to the NFL, Dupree has taken over leadership of the unit, a role he wanted so much he passed on the chance to go to the league himself. Dupree had enough interest from NFL teams after last season to make the jump, but decided to come back to school to improve his stock and help the program get to the next level. “I’ve gotta be a leader, just to make sure that my team is on the same page and everyone’s trying to win,” Dupree told me last week. “Everyone’s really now all in. That’s been my role, just to get everyone on the same page.”
So far, so good. Dupree says that his defensive line is getting better everyday, and is working towards the goal of being “one of the best D-lines in the league.” Dupree says that progress extends to the team as a whole, who he says is “way ahead” of where they were last spring, mainly because they know the staff and their roles better.
“The difference is people really didn’t know their roles on the team, and now, the coaches know who to put in positions to make plays. Now, people really know what their job is as a team, and to only do their job, which will benefit the team in the long run.”
Stoops, the staff, and his fellow players describe Dupree as a “freak,” a moniker he welcomes, and attributes to hard work in the weight room. Dupree said he and High Performance Coach Erik Korem focused on maximizing his explosion in the offseason, and the results are indisputable. “It has paid off for me this spring and it’ll pay off for me this season. I’ve just gotta keep grinding and getting better everyday.”
In fact, Dupree says that part of being a leader was instilling that drive in the rest of the team in the weight room, something that wasn’t there last season:
“We competed every day this offseason. One thing I’ve said we didn’t do last year was I made sure everyone competed in the weight room during drills, so we always competed. That plays a big role in getting everyone ready for the situation we’re in and rebuilding this program.”
Dupree’s savage mentality is also contagious. While Dupree says he’s been writing the word on his wrist tape for over a year, the defense is now adopting it as their motto, saying it before every practice. “I’ve been saying it for a while now, but I guess it just got put out there,” Dupree laughed. “We say it everyday in practice and make sure we go by it. Once you get a mentality of a savage, you’re hard to stop because you will do anything to get what you want.”