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John Schlarman passes away following battle with cancer

It is with great sadness that we share the news that offensive line coach John Schlarman has passed away following a two-year battle with cancer. From his All-SEC playing days as a Wildcat to his eight years as the leader of the “Big Blue Wall,” he embodied Kentucky Football in mind and spirit. He was 45 years old.

“I’m heartbroken to learn about the passing of my friend, John Schlarman,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said in a press release. “My prayers go out to LeeAnne and the kids, Joseph, Benjamin, Matthew and Evelyn, through this very difficult time.

“John was everything we all strive to be – honest, tough, fair, respected. Kentucky football won’t be the same without him but his legacy will never fade. He was a fighter and we will strive every day to honor his warrior spirit.”

A native of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Schlarman played offensive guard at Kentucky from 1994-97, starting all four years and earning All-SEC honors as a senior. He returned to Kentucky in 2000 to be a grad assistant after a two-year stint coaching the defensive line at Bourbon County High School. He got his first head coaching job at Campbell County in 2003 and moved to Newport High School in 2005, leading the program to the state playoffs and a two-year record of 19-6. He was named District Coach of the Year in 2005 by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association. In 2007, he joined Larry Blakeney’s staff at Troy, coaching the offensive line and taking on the role of running game coordinator in 2010. He helped the Trojans win or share four Sun Belt Conference championships and advance to three bowl games.

In 2013, Schlarman came home to the Bluegrass to join Mark Stoops’ staff, slowly building the “Big Blue Wall” that would become his legacy. Kentucky’s offensive line steadily improved under his tutelage, paving the way for rushers like Boom Williams and Benny Snell, the latter of which became the school’s all-time leading rusher. In the last four seasons, Kentucky rushed for 2,000 or more yards and broke numerous school records, including single-season records for most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns and most rushing yards per attempt. In 2016 and ’19, Schlarman’s Cats were semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s top offensive line. He became a mentor to some of the program’s most valuable players like Logan Stenberg, Bunchy Stallings, Jon Toth, Landon Young, and Drake Jackson.

In the summer of 2018, Schlarman was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and hard-to-treat form of cancer that forms in the bile ducts that carry digestive fluids and connect the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. Even though he was undergoing treatments, he continued to coach, missing as few practices as possible and serving as an example to his players and fellow coaches to stay the course. As his health took a turn for the worse this fall, he coached his final game at Tennessee, helping the Cats to their first victory in Knoxville since 1984.

“The UK Athletics family is in deep sorrow on the passing of John Schlarman,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. “Throughout the last two years, he has been an incredible inspiration. He taught people how to live and showed all of us what it means to be courageous.

“John was a great husband and father, teacher and leader. He will be remembered for the love he had for his family, his dedication to his players and his excellence as a coach. Our prayers and heartfelt condolences are with his family and all who knew and loved him.”

Our hearts go out to the Schlarman family, the Kentucky Football family, and everyone who knew and loved him.

Schlarman following Kentucky’s win at Florida in 2018 (Photo by UK Athletics)

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

37 Comments for John Schlarman passes away following battle with cancer

  1. bird whisperer
    8:56 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    R.I.P. coach.

  2. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    8:56 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Sorry to hear this. Prayers for his family.

  3. ClutchCargo
    8:57 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    RIP, John Schlarman, and prayers for his family. I hate to say it, but something in the back of mind told me yesterday that we would get this kind of news any day now.

  4. RackEmWillie
    8:59 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    When he didn’t make the trip to Mizzou, I felt like it was getting close to this point. So sad for his family, friends, and players. Dude was very much loved all across BBN.

    He handled all of this much better than most people would.

    • BlueSteel
      9:45 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

      Rest In Peace!!

    • Bluenblood
      12:24 pm November 12, 2020 Permalink

      Felt the same thing. Players prob as well. And rheyre just lids not used to this

  5. UKGrad1965
    9:00 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Coach Scharman will be missed. He represented the state of Kentucky and the University well in all aspects, as a man, a player, a father and a coach.

  6. csnailnrun
    9:00 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    God Bless his family. What passion and fearlessness he put forth everyday!

  7. VilleCat11
    9:00 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    May he rest in peace and build a big blue wall in heaven!! Prayers to the family, friends and team!!

  8. JTT15
    9:00 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Prayers for the Schlarman family! BBN lift this family up! BBN lift this team up, they need our support more than ever! Remember, these are kids and we sometimes forget that!

  9. johnfranke
    9:01 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    RIP Coach! Prayers for you and your family!

  10. bigblue98
    9:01 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Prayers to his wife, kids, and family, and also all those at UK as well. It’s evident the fine man that he was by listening to some of the comments from past and current players that he coached.

  11. tdub
    9:03 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Prayers for his family. Huge loss for them and all of BBN. He was a tough man.

  12. BobbyBlue
    9:05 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    May he test in peace now, and my condolences to the members of his family and the players that loved him.
    Go with God, big guy !

  13. crazycatfan65
    9:05 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    A man that was an inspiration. R.I.P. coach and God bless his family during this difficult time.

    • wyatts1
      9:33 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

      Rest in peace and condolences for the family, bad for uk sports. A true kentucky man, that lead by example.

  14. Sully
    9:06 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    A great man. So sorry for his family and the University. A tremendous loss.

  15. Southky
    9:06 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Prayers for strength and comfort to his family and friends.

  16. TBW3011
    9:10 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Rest In Peace. What a fighter.

  17. EastKY-BlueBlood
    9:11 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    True warrior and inspiration! May he rest in peace, and may God be with all that he coached, touched, and most importantly his family.. #BBN #BigBlueWall

  18. UKinIN
    9:21 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Condolences to the family and program. You win 2020. We give up.

  19. beauleonard
    9:22 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    May God rest his soul. It’s obvious that he loved what he did, all the way up to the end. Prayers for peace and comfort for is family, friends and players. RIP Coach.

  20. bbn606
    9:28 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    His legacy will carry on at UK forever. May God have mercy on his soul.

  21. KYCat4EVER
    9:35 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    God Bless Coach Schlarman and the Schlarman Family!

  22. wild horses
    9:37 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Heartbroken. My son had cancer in 2014-15 and it took his leg. But, we still have him. Cancer socks. Deep prayers for his family.

  23. runningunnin.454
    9:41 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    He took it to the limit; his courage was incredible. So fitting that his last game was a great victory. RIP, Coach.

  24. cats646
    9:49 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Dang that hurts to hear. This man was the total embodiment of Ky football. Tough, passionate, gritty, fighter who cared more about his team and family then himself. It’s gonna be hard to replace a legend like this. But I got a feeling the big blue wall will remember him exactly how he’d want them to. By knocking the $hit outta the guy across the line! Schlarman will be with our team from now on in spirit 24/7!! Let’s finish this year out strong for the man who wanted nothing more than to win!! “If you come together nobody can stop you”-John Schlarman. Let’s get 4 more game balls for this legend!!!! GO CATS!!!

  25. Bluehender
    9:49 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Prayers to Coach Schlarman’s family and all those who knew and loved him.

  26. mashman 93
    9:51 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Rest In Peace Coach. My prayers go out to his family.

  27. SuperTroy18
    9:54 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    What a warrior. Fought and fought. Now you can rest, Coach.

  28. jakew60
    9:56 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    This is so sad to hear, schlarman was a mentor to say the least, I always appreciated him as a coach and is very much someone who I would hope to become, he coached offensive line and that is a dream to me and the man he was should be a man everyone should follow and hope to be RIP to a true Warrior

  29. CPACAT
    10:08 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    What a great man! Our prayers to his family, his friends and his players. The UK Family is better because of his presence!!

  30. Ryan Lemonds Toupee
    10:14 am November 12, 2020 Permalink


  31. JPGott2
    10:25 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    Coach, you passed with all your chips on the board. May your days be blessed with the sun on your face and your life celebrated by your family from all over.

  32. VMI1957
    10:31 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    So sad to hear about Coach Schlarman’s passing. Cancer does indeed suck.Prayers to UK’s football team, John’s family and to his friends and players from over all the years… in peace Coach!!

  33. oldfanallin
    10:41 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    John will live on in the lives of his family and those he touched. Prayers for John’s family near and far.

  34. 4everUKBlue
    11:31 am November 12, 2020 Permalink

    R.I.P. Coach, prayers to the family and friends.