In 2007, College GameDay came to the University of Kentucky in a top-25 matchup against the Florida Gators, creating one of the most incredible campus environments in school history.
Tim Tebow was in his Heisman follow-up campaign, the Wildcats had just upset No. 1 LSU and moved up to No. 7 in the polls, and Andre Woodson was solidifying himself as one of the all-time quarterback greats at UK.
10 years later, the same matchup that electrified the fanbase like no other is back.
But let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive College GameDay coming to Lexington from both fan and player perspective.
KSR friend and Depth Chart Podcast co-host Andrew Eaton was at UK’s 2007 GameDay experience, and decided to give insight on the excitement fans felt on that day.
“The atmosphere was electric,” Eaton said. “Even the night before was awesome. They did a feature on SportsCenter on Friday night, highlights of the epic LSU victory the previous week, Tebow’s best plays and his status as the top player in America.”
According to Eaton, the nightlife throughout the week leading up to GameDay was something to marvel.
“People were staying out all night and the campus was absolutely packed. I don’t think the streak was the entire emphasis, rather that we were top 10 and rolling. It was an incredible experience as a student,” he said.
What was more impressive for Eaton, however, was the entire athletic department buying into the hype of this matchup.
“GameDay turned into an all-Kentucky event. All of our athletics programs promoted this event and did their job to pack the house,” he said. “College Gameday for basketball is one thing, but the football version is the premier event, and people treated it as such. For that week, everyone was all-in on the football program, and it’s something I had never experienced in my time as a fan.“
This year, GameDay has already (questionably) decided to set up shop in New York City this weekend, but that doesn’t take away from the hype surrounding this game. Kentucky has just come off a massive road win against South Carolina, they’re 3-0, and the Cats finally have the tools necessary to knock off the Gators.
“This week has less national hype. From a fan perspective, however, it feels like similar ground. We want to see how “real” this team is. Beating Florida cements that. It establishes that this Kentucky team is legit and here to stay,” Eaton said.
In an interview with KSR, former Kentucky receiver and star member of the 2007 football team Keenan Burton told us what it was like to be part of College GameDay and what playing in a game of this magnitude feels like as a player.
“It’s crazy, the experience was incredible. If you’re not careful, it can be overwhelming. If you have an afternoon or night game, you watch GameDay, it’s just what you do as a player,” he said. “You look around and see signs for me, see signs for Stevie (Johnson), Andre (Woodson), and Jacob (Tamme), to see the fans there for us, it made us extremely excited.”
And it was the fans believing in the players from kickoff to the final buzzer that kept the team motivated.
“The thing that stuck out to me was that our fans always thought we had a chance to win from start to finish,” Burton said. “Up until the end of the game, the stands were full, cheering loud on every play. They thought the streak was going to end, and we appreciated them for the motivation.”
Burton caught 189 receptions for 2376 yards and 25 touchdowns over his career, an era that many Kentucky fans feel maintained some of the top talent and entertaining football in school history. At the time, though, Burton said he had no idea the team would leave the lasting impact it did.
“In the moment, you don’t know you’re going to be part of something like that,” said Burton. “Ten years from that day, it’s just incredible to say I was part of that team. We will never be forgotten. I feel like our whole group feels that way.”
Former star cornerback Trevard Lindley was a key player for the Wildcats from 2006-2009 and played a massive role on that 2007 team. He agrees, that era of Kentucky football was special.
“It feels incredible being part of that group. We started to beat teams that no one thought we could beat, going to bowls games, and just bringing football back to a school that isn’t used to reaching those heights. It was special,” Lindley said.
Even with the hype surrounding the program while he was there and monumental upsets, Burton believes the 2017 football team has something they never did.
“I think this team has something we didn’t have. They have legitimate depth, four and five-star players. They have experience and leaders stepping up. They’ve prepared for the big games and won them, so they know how to finish in similar situations now. They have a huge opportunity to upset Florida,” he said.
But what needs to happen for the 2017 Wildcats to do something Burton and Lindley’s 2007 squad couldn’t?
“The person that needs to stand out is Stephen Johnson. He’s helped us win games and has been a real leader for this team,” Burton said. “You know what you’re gonna get from Benny Snell. There are some talented athletes outside. The defense has to step up big time, but I think they’ve got a legitimate shot.”
Now for the most important question.
Is the streak going to end on Saturday?
“If we win on Saturday, we do something even the best, most loved UK teams in my fan history never managed to do. I honestly believe it’s time,” said Andrew Eaton.
Trevard Lindley agrees. He said, “I believe if they come out and play and minimize mistakes, we’ll be able to beat them.”
“I wouldn’t be true a Kentucky fan if I said otherwise,” Keenan Burton said. “Absolutely, Kentucky is going to break the curse and pull off the win. Tell everyone, the streak is going to end.”