Tuesday afternoon the Kentucky football team did what only a select few can say — practice football. Preseason college football practices look much different during the coronavirus pandemic, but the Wildcats, especially the seniors, are blessed to still have an opportunity to suit up for the University of Kentucky.
“This is nowhere near normal for fall camp,” said senior running back A.J. Rose. “We’re doing what we need to do. We gotta take the steps we gotta take to play. Coaches and everybody here are doing a great job. Everything and all of the protocols they got laid out, we have no choice but to follow them if we want to play. It’s weird but it’s the new normal now, unfortunately.”
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and the rest of the coaches are staying further away from their players than ever before. The practice did not look like a normal football practice, but once the bullets were flying on the field, everything felt like normal, albeit a new normal.
“We’ve got guys spread out. That part seems kind of different but it’s still football. Once we go, it’s 11-on-11 — that felt like football. The speed of it, being out there and listening to them compete. That was right. That was really good,” said Gran.
Quarterback Terry Wilson echoed that sentiment, except for how the players got to practice. Players have new ways of entering and exiting the facility and they’re limited to only 14 minutes inside the locker room at a time.
“But on the field, it feels normal,” Wilson said. “On the field everybody is still running around, we’re flying around and doing what we’re supposed to be doing out there and just having fun. I would say on the field it really isn’t different than anything, but definitely inside the facility you do have those restrictions and things that you have to follow.”
College football pundits have debated exactly how safe it is for players on campus. Like many coaches, Wilson said, “I wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else.” Offensive tackle Landon Young took that one step further.
“This is one of the safest places we can be and that’s what I want a bunch of people to understand is that, especially if you’re against us, playing football right now, this is literally some of the best places that these athletes can be,” stated Young. “It’s safe. It’s sanitary. It’s probably the lowest risk out of anywhere the we can be when it comes to COVID.”
In the days following the “will they, won’t they” game the Big Ten and Pac-12 started to play as the first Power Five conferences to cancel their fall seasons, the Wildcats entered preseason camp with an unusual sense of gratitude. For the seniors, they are treating every practice like it may be their last.
“A lot rides on this season for a lot of guys. Even to have a season we’re really blessed,” Young said. “We go out there and we want to attack every single day, act like tomorrow is still the last play we’re ever going to have because it very well might be. If this season were to end, there’s a lot of guys that wouldn’t be able to dress up in Kentucky blue again. We have to go out there, take it as a pride thing and be able to work together and knock all this rust off.”
The feeling applies to every senior, but even more so for Terry Wilson. After a knee injury sidelined him for all but two games of the 2019 season, the Kentucky quarterback is enjoying every single moment he gets to spend on the football field .
“We’re blessed, we’re really blessed to be able to continue doing this, just to be able to come to practice and do what we love. I think that’s what’s driving us the most, that knowing we’re really the only guys that get to come out and practice, continue doing football things. I feel like it just drives us even more to take those safety precautions and follow everything we need to follow.”
Wilson added, “It doesn’t get any better than this. I feel like everybody wants to be playing football right now but we’re just fortunate enough to be out there and taking advantage of it.”