This morning, Kentucky assistant head coach Vince Marrow joined Kentucky Sports Radio to break down the ongoing protests around the nation and the latest developments in the state, touching on his personal thoughts and how his players are feeling, among other topics.
What did Marrow have to say?
Check out the entire transcript of the interview below.
On his general thoughts about what’s going on around the state…
I was just thinking, reminiscing about my time being here. I’ve got to say, since I first took over recruiting in the state of Kentucky – it’s been three years now – I first went to Louisville and I remember I was a little weary about going down there because I knew the rivalry. It’s a good rivalry with good people.
The young man that got killed the other day, I met him. That’s what’s so strange about all of this, I met him. I didn’t know who he was, I was just down there recruiting JJ Weaver and Shawnkel [Knight-Goff], them guys. I was trying to spend a lot of time down there in Louisville, I remember running into him in the streets. Very nice guy. There were some other guys who recognized who I was, they said, “Uh oh, this is the guy that’s going to come in here and take all these Louisville kids.” He was that barbecue guy. My condolences go out to his family, it’s just senseless. He seems like a very nice guy. I don’t know all what happened, but I heard he was a guy who gave barbecue to police officers for years.
Being an African American, seeing what I’ve seen over the last eight days or so, I’ll tell you what I’m encouraged by. Some of our players were very upset and reached out to me, I just told them, “Turn on the TV and look to see who’s walking with people like you. One of the players, and I’m not going to say his name, but he came to me and said, “Coach, it’s a bunch of white dudes out there.” And I said, “Yeah, there are a bunch of Asian people out there, and there’s a lot of brown people.” We’re in a society now, Martin Luther King Jr. when I was young, I know a lot of people protested then, and there are white people who really want to see change. What I see now, it’s a true rainbow coalition, you see all types of people out there. They’re protesting, they’re tired. It’s a human thing now. As a black man, it’s always been a black thing, but I think white people, Asian people, they’re all upset about what they’ve seen. I appreciate the people protesting because black people are tired.
On whether he’s nervous being around police officers…
I think the town where I’m from, Youngstown, we’re very tough. The only thing I’d say I’m intimidated by is, they see me driving nice cars. Ever since I got drafted in the NFL I lived in predominately white communities, and you just wonder, sometimes I’m driving by a police car, and am I nervous? No. But I’m like, “Who is in that car that may be an idiot that don’t care who I am? They just look at the color of my skin while I’m driving a nice car.” A lot of my colleagues and friends, they feel that way, where you get pulled over while driving black.
I had an incident while recruiting in Ohio, I’m driving on the highway, and I drive pretty nice cars. A highway patrolman pulled me over and I’m kind of pissed. He follows me to a gas station, and I get out of my car to say, “What? What’s the problem?” He must have run a check to see who I am. He said, “Oh, I pulled you over because there’s something wrong with your light.” At the time, it’s 2017, so I’m driving a brand new Infiniti, and I say, “There’s something wrong with my light?” That old “Your tail light is out.” I thought it was the biggest BS I’ve ever seen. I just gave him a look like, “Dude, are you serious?” He said, “Sorry sir.” It was just one of those things, being African American, a lot of people feel that way. It doesn’t matter if you have millions of dollars or ten dollars in your pocket.
On what players say to him about what’s going on in the country right now…
This is where I say I disagree with a lot of people. Probably like when Jackie Robinson was first, and I look at Bill Russell playing in the 50s and 60s. They had white teammates and some of them stuck up for them, but it was a select few. These white kids, they’re just as pissed as these black kids on our team. And that’s what you see now on the streets, you see these 20- to 25-year-olds non-athletes and athletes [fighting]. In our time now, we have so much diversity on our staff and in our athletic department, and I think that’s one of the biggest things I commend Mark Stoops on. Mark Stoops has one of the most diverse staffs in college football. It used to be that you had to have one on offense and one on defense, and that’s it. You hit the quota.
You still see some of that, and it’s a shame. And that’s what I tell the kids I’m recruiting – and I don’t care if other college coaches are listening – if I’m recruiting against you, and your parents see there’s two or even three African Americans on your staff of ten, something is wrong. And I don’t hide that. When my son was coming out getting recruited, when my daughter was getting recruited, there had to be some diversity.
Going back to the players, if they’re mad, it’s not like back in the 70s when an African American teammate would come in and look at his teammates and say, “Yeah, you’re just like that.” Our players know that our white players [have their back]. I don’t know if you saw last night on Twitter, somebody called Lynn Bowden racist, and Drake Jackson – who is the quietest guy who don’t get involved in politics or any kind of social media – came to Lynn’s defense and said, “I can’t let you do this. I’ve known this man for three years and he is nowhere near racist.” And I thought that sent a powerful message.
You take a kid like Lynn Bowden, who’s from the inner-city of Youngstown, and he goes home – we call it the pride of the mountains – he goes to eastern Kentucky and hangs out with this kid. I thought, “Wow, he went all the way there, went fishing. Lynn ain’t never done stuff like that.” That’s what you see. I really feel like support plays a big part of this, even more than politics or church. When you’re dealing with sports and athletic departments, it is the most diverse people from all over. White, black, Asian, they all work together. Our kids, they go to different coach’s houses, go to different churches in the summer to get experience being with the Catholic church or a Baptist church, a Pentecostal church. Our kids, they experience that. I just think, where we’re at today – and don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed with what I’ve seen with George Floyd – but I’m also encouraged of what I see amongst these young men and women marching together.
His thoughts on the peaceful protests and separating those from looters and rioters…
I agree 110%. I was very moved by George Floyd’s brother coming out yesterday and denouncing the looting and all that stuff. I mean, I have brothers in law enforcement and I have friends in law enforcement. There are a lot of good people in law enforcement, and trust me, nobody pulled my chain to say that. That’s firmly what I believe. If I didn’t go into pro ball, I was going to be an FBI agent or [involved in] criminal law. I don’t want to miss the point that there are a lot of great people in law enforcement. I mean, my experience in Lexington, the police here have been [great].
I’ve seen that, and I use it in recruiting with parents. I tell them to just take a walk downtown. The people in this community didn’t know we were recruiting their kid, they were just walking around, and they came back and said “Man, this is a nice place, the hospitality is just nice.” And I have to tip my hat to our police force. I thought they were really good in these protests over the last couple days. Talking to everybody, it’s, “Protest, protest, protest. Don’t do no looting, none of that stuff. But protest.”
On whether or not the players have been outspoken about protesting…
It’s just like anything else. You’re also a product of the University of Kentucky, so we ask you to conduct yourself [positively]. I think we have, from Mark Stoops to our athletic department, do it in a very respectable way. I believe you can do it in the limelight of being a student-athlete if you want to get your message across. When people are on you and the media talks to you, you can say how you feel in a positive manner.
I’ve been a former player. If I was in a place where it was a bad environment or bad situation, you’d probably see more players saying all kinds of stuff. But I really believe that Mark Stoops is a good coach, but a really good human being. He understands and he hurts with these kids in any situation. I think, I remember hearing Eli Capilouto speak at an athletic event, and I was very moved when he was talking about equality and diversity, telling the university we are moving forward with stuff like this. Our kids respect what’s in line, whether it be under Capilouto as a student-athlete or under Mitch [Barnhart] and Mark [Stoops], they are very respectful. We respect and support the things they believe and what they want to talk about.
On the backgrounds of the players Kentucky recruits…
It’s unique. I look at some of the African American kids, but also some of the white kids. They come from impoverished – well, I don’t want to say impoverished – but you go to certain areas where the economy is really bad. When you look at a guy from where we’re from in Youngstown, Ohio, it is bad there. It used to be about 250,000, now it’s down to about 60,000 because there are no jobs there. There is a lot of killing, a lot of drug selling. It’s a fact. I can say that about a lot of the areas we recruit from in the inner-cities, and then we bring them to a place where they are happy to be. They can come in, graduate, and their lives are changed. They’ve seen a lot of police brutality in their towns, they talk about it. But there are also certain things you can change, you can do it by going out to vote. I’m not a politician, I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, but I always say that if you want change, go out and vote. You have to vote at every level, not just the presidency, you’ve got to vote for governors, your local leaders.
Our young African American kids are really confused right now and hurt, and that’s across the whole country. But the great thing is, you have support, and I don’t think it’s fake support. I think they see there are people who don’t look like them that are very concerned and don’t stand for what’s going on.