Being quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic has not been good for almost everyone’s diet. The exception is in a place where you’d least expect it — inside Kentucky’s offensive line room.
Instead of packing on pounds while they were away from the Joe Craft Football Training Facility, John Schlarman’s Big Blue Wall went to work shedding weight. Leading the charge is the man at the middle of the line, Drake Jackson. A candidate for this year’s Rimington Award, given each year to the nation’s top center, Jackson says he lost 30 pounds of fat over five months.
“You’re always trying to change your body every offseason, eat healthier, work out hard, transform fat into muscle, but in March when we were hit with the quarantine I decided it could go one of two ways: I could get fat and out of shape or lose weight and stay in shape. I chose the latter. I’m glad I did. I think going into your senior year it kind of hits you low. It’s not like I never took it serious before, but now it’s really time to get serious and I had a lot of help doing it,” said Jackson.
“I feel great. I lost probably 30 pounds of fat that offseason. I’m putting it back on and I feel great. I’m moving better than ever. I have all my strength and the guys in the weight room did a really good job with nutrition. I’m excited to see how it pays off.”
The decision Drake made was one that entire offensive line room made collectively. Instead of returning to practice out of shape, they never looked better.
“When we came back and looked at that offensive line room, I was really surprised to see how many guys took care of themselves. Take a guy like Nick Lewis who went from mid to upper 300s, down to the lower part of 300s and he looks better than ever. He’s a totally different person. You look at a lot of guys: Luke Fortner is looking thick and looking good, Darian Kinnard, really I could go on and on,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s one guy in that offensive line room that got fat and out of shape. I think that’s a testament to the standards that we’ve set in that room, what’s expected of us, Coach Schlarman harping on it everyday and having so much experience and leadership in that group. It’s not just one person, or two or three or four, it was a whole group of guys that know how to take care of their stuff. I think that shows on the field and it shows off the field.”
Of the people mentioned, Nick Lewis’ weight loss might be the most significant. Known in the media world simply as “Thanos,” the 6-foot-9 left tackle was north of 350 pounds when he arrived in Lexington in 2018. Mark Stoops noticed the difference in Lewis just through three practices.
“Nick Lewis has made a big jump,” said Stoops. “He’s really changed his body and he’s improved quite a bit. As you know, he’s a giant guy. He’s a big man and got himself in shape. He’s moving better and we needed that out of Nick.”
The Wildcats took care of themselves during their down time. But don’t be fooled, they’re still a bunch of fat guys at heart.
“We keep each other in check. I lost 30 pounds, but everyday I walk in the O-line room there’s fat jokes being thrown around,” said Jackson.