NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice once famously said, “But hey, if you look good you play good.” At the 2015 Kentucky Football Media Day, I couldn’t help but to think about the great one’s words as I analyzed Wildcat players and coaches.
For all too many years, UK has trotted out players that didn’t quite look the same as their opponents. Those days are behind us. What I saw was a football team with an influx of SEC talent and bodies. UK’s defensive linemen appeared the same as their rivals south of the border. The Wildcat linebackers look like the ones that play between the hedges. It’s been way too long, but Mark Stoops has his Wildcats on the cusp. I said on the cusp, I didn’t say UK has arrived. That will come. Given Vince Marrow’s recruiting prowess, I’m convinced of that.
You look good you play good, simple phrase, but in Lexington putting action to those words were a costly proposition. Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart has invested millions into a new football training facility as well as Commonwealth Stadium upgrades. At Media Day, I noticed players proudly looking around their new lair. The 49er great’s words also apply to facilities.
Uniforms and the modern day college football craze. Nike and longtime UK head manager Tom Kalinowski ensures that the Wildcats are geared up in fresh, and trendy threads. You look good you play good. There is no coincidence that in big games, the Cats run out of the tunnel sporting a creative uniform combination. These aren’t you’re daddy’s Wildcats.
The High Performance staff has put in serious work. At Media Day, I saw obvious and impressive body changes. Players appear leaner yet are listed as heavier on updated rosters. A confident athlete is a prepared athlete. Strength and conditioning are also a mental confident boost. Center Jon Toth said that he’s more confident at 310 than he was as a 270 lbs. freshman. Melvin Lewis’s attitude is different now that he can play 10 plus consecutive plays without taking a breather. Receivers are more boisterous now that they can release from the line of scrimmage against physical defensive backs.
Jerry Rice is an all-timer. I would have never guessed that I’d associate my initial UK Media Day with the San Francisco great. But, I couldn’t get his quote out of my mind when as I talked to an energetic and enthusiastic group of Wildcats.