Think about this for a minute. 700 folks attended a UK function in downtown Louisville. If I were from the ‘Ville and wore red on a daily basis that would absolutely drive me nuts. Well done Jefferson County’s BBN Chapter. Mark Stoops finished up speaking season with a short question-and-answer session with Tom Leach and his two coordinators. No Earth-shattering news came about as the Wildcat coaches appeared to be ready to put the jawing season to bed and get camp started.
Over 30 former football Cats attended. That is by far the most in the event’s history. The luncheon was great. Tons of folks there. Food was tasty. But the noteworthy aspect to me was all the has-beens in the crowd and their pre-lunch interaction with Stoops, Eliot, and Dawson. Former players represented coaches from Bear to Brooks. Impressive.
On more than one occasion, a letterman would ask Mark Stoops if it was ok to stop by practice. I saw a semi-mad Stoops come out during these questions. His repeated answer was absolutely. And he meant it. See, I think he finds it offensive that players felt that they had to ask. The “All In” mantra sincerely extends to us. That’s refreshing. That’s also not new. Joker had that policy, so did Brooks. But there’s something different about this staff. Something that signifies to former players that UK is on the horizon of reaching a point in which most failed to meet. For the first time in my has-been career, I felt like part of the program. I had at least five others tell me the same.
I loved it. But, I again badly failed KSR. Much like the Governor’s Cup, I couldn’t keep up with interview questions and to be honest, I got caught up in the informal reunion and joined the boys in telling lies and making fun of each other. I’m sorry. Maybe one day I’ll actually report something newsworthy. Every time I reached for my phone to tweet, I’d get slapped in the back of the head and asked if I played defensive tackle or right guard. Very funny. Fat jokes never get old around the alpha-dog heavy world of washed up football players.
I can accurately say that I saw thirty plus former players with a sincere look of excitement. We almost had to tie former fullback and SEC knockdown block leader, Andy Murray, to his chair. He was full nostril flaring and had the same look he had in the huddle on third and short situations. I fully expected him to head-butt Matt Bradford or Ronnie Robinson. Andy epitomized the mood. We were all carrying on sidebar conversations before the coaches walked up to the podium. When Stoops started to talk, I was reminded of being back in the Nutter Center when Jerry Claiborne would begin a team meeting. We all sat up straight, sucked our guts in, and paid attention. No matter how old the audience may be, Mark Stoops is a motivator.
You have to remember, not all of us ever experienced a winning season. I did, but just one. You don’t think that hearing about UK’s less than stellar football history for thirty years doesn’t get our blood boiling? It absolutely does. We take it personally. However, hearing about the state of the program and where it is headed is our vindication.
John Ryan and Dean Wells should be commended. They worked for months inviting alumni and preparing for today’s festivities. Not surprising from each. Both highly successful men with a passion for all things Blue. I’m tired of talking season. I’m tired of projection. Let’s tee the darn ball up and play some football.