What do these three Kentucky Basketball legends have in common: Kenny Walker, Frank Ramsey, and Tony Delk? Answer is a couple things. Their jerseys have all been retired and now hang in Rupp Arena Rafters. Also, the three are listed as second in major UK historical, career records. Walker is the 2nd leading scorer, Ramsey is number two in rebounds, and Delk is runner-up for career steals.
What if I told you that Kentucky Football’s second all-time leading tackler’s jersey was not hanging in the Commonwealth Stadium Ring of Honor? Doesn’t make sense, right? It’s time for the University to right this wrong by adding Chris Chenault to that list of all-time greats. More on that later. Here are the reasons why he signed with the Wildcats:
Chris Chenault, LB, Lexington Henry Clay —The All SEC LB and team captain is the second leading tackler in UK history and was later drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. Prior to signing with Coach Jerry Claiborne, Chris was a two-way player for his home town, state champion Blue Devils.
Q: Please tell the BBN about your recruiting experience.
Chenault: I really liked Florida but Coach Charlie Pell and the Gators were about to go on probation so I quickly took them off my list. I liked Tennessee also and actually gave them a verbal commitment while I was visiting Notre Dame. On the flight back from South Bend I saw Lexington from the window of the plane and never felt so glad to be home. I was now a very confused young man. I told my mother and father that I had narrowed it down to Kentucky and Tennessee. I also told them I had given a verbal commitment to Tennessee but was really not sure and wanted to talk to UK one more time to make my decision. Kentucky was an up and coming program. I always loved KY football but wanted to be sure they were going to really try and compete in the SEC. Kentucky was a challenge and I wanted to be a part of that so Kentucky it was.
Q: Growing up in Lexington, how unique was it to take an official visit to UK?
Chenault: My host was UK great George Adams and he told me about the advantages of going to Kentucky and that I would feel like I was away at school. He was right. I never knew how big UK was and football would take up all of your time along with academics. We rode around campus and I met future UK football Head Coach Joker Phillips and Gordon Jackson who would become one of my closest friends in the future. I never ate so much in my life during my visit. We ate at every restaurant in the city just about. I was very excited to be going to UK and play football.
Q: Why did you sign with Kentucky?
Chenault: My decision was based on family. I wanted to give my family the opportunity to see me play every home game. My main concern was the health of my mother Mary Carter Chenault. My mother was dying of breast cancer and her health was going downhill fast. My father Philip Chenault worked at the Campbell House Inn and they let him off to take care of my mother and Coach Claiborne was very supportive of my situation. I soon realized that family is not always blood borne, UK became an added member to me and they would always ask about my mother. I chose UK because the football team and Coaches cared for me and my family.
Q: What has being a UK alumnus done for your life after football?
Chenault: Being an active K-Club member has meant never letting old friendships die. It has provided me fellowship with a vast array of people from all walks of life. UK football fans are always recognizing me at the oddest times. Being a former Kentucky State Trooper I thought being known as a football player was in my past, however it never fails that motorist states you’re not the UK football Chenault are you? Networking is very key also. I love the fact the players of past get to meet and interact with different classes of players during games. I really look forward to the UK blue/white game and loved the alumni game at the half and wish Coach Stoops would bring it back soon.
Q: What is your most fond UK memory?
Chenault: My first time coming out the tunnel to at a packed Commonwealth Stadium! I think we were about to play Bowling Green. The chills it gave me and then looking up in the stands and seeing my family cheering was mind-blowing! I saw the Ring of Honor of all the UK greats and said to myself I got to get there one day.
Chris Chenault is what is good about Kentucky Football. A home-town kid that succeeded at the highest level and now continues to give back to the Lexington community. Today, Chenault is a retired Kentucky State Police Officer and can be seen on game days working behind a K-Club grill only stopping his cooking duties to bear hug old friends. With 482 career tackles including a remarkable single game mark of 28 stops against Vanderbilt, Chris Chenault is more than deserving and long overdue to have his jersey eternally displayed in the Kentucky Football Ring of Honor. Hope you enjoyed a look inside the minds of former UK greats. I have a Tim Couch feature in the works that should be fun.