August 18, 2014 was a day I will never forget.
In my second season covering the Kentucky football beat for KSR, there was plenty anticipation surrounding the hot preseason practice. It wasn’t for the interviews after practice. After all, there wasn’t too much hoopla entering Stoops’ second season besides, “We might not suck again!”
An ambitious 22-year old, I was prepared to have the best ice bucket challenge in the short history of ice bucket challenges. Instead of pouring the cold water over my head, I was simply going to take a dip into the frigid waters at the Tim Couch Practice Fields once the players had finished their post-practice routine. With the help of Matt Elam, I boldly took the plunge.
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Pleased with my effort, I had a little extra pep in my step as I prepared to depart. The false confidence was exactly what I needed when I saw the the practice field’s namesake step onto the scene.
Still soaked from my dip into the cold pool, the sight of Tim Couch, Shane Boyd and Jared Lorenzen caught me completely off guard. It was as if Jesus came sauntering down the runway from the pearly gates with his 12 disciples.
The Couch-Lorenzen-Boyd quarterback triumvirate is at the cornerstone of my fandom. I’ve loved the Wildcats my entire life, but those three took it to another level. In my second game at Commonwealth Stadium, Couch threw a touchdown to Yeast in overtime to beat Alabama. From that point forward, if I got a chance to use one of the two season tickets (or sneak in), I was going to be in the stands.
My passion for Kentucky football was permanently cemented into my soul in 2002. At 11-years old, I discovered the art of trash-talking when Lorenzen threw for 195 yards and a touchdown to defeat Dave Ragone and the seventeenth-ranked Cards on their own turf to kickoff a special season. The win over Louisville ignited a win streak, one that featured my most memorable moment as a young fan.
The Roush family season tickets were in section 225, row 25, far from the field. By this time I had matured what I thought was well beyond my years. Now a fifth grader on the top floor of my school with the rest of the older kids, the rite of passage also gave me the freedom to walk on my own to my friend’s section to sit with his family near the end zone. In one of my first experiences near the goal line, I got to see Lorenzen at his finest hour.
As the first half drew to a close, Middle Tennessee State crept back into the game to make it 24-16. Jared made quite a few big plays in a 305-yard, three-touchdown outing, but his best performance was on the final play of the half. Even though I was supposed to get back to my section at halftime, I stuck around for the final play. I was treated to a bench-clearing brawl, thanks to the Hefty Lefty’s theatrics.
Jared was never afraid to scrap ?? pic.twitter.com/CRLWH6mpCW
— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) July 3, 2019
Twelve years later I wasn’t the swaggy frat guy who just made an awesome Instagram video, I was the wide-eyed kid in the stands watching Lorenzen raise hell at Commonwealth Stadium.
Upon introducing myself, Jared could not have been nicer. We casually reminisced on old games, he introduced me to Couch and his former right hand man Shane Boyd before we posed for a picture, one I will cherish forever.
When I left the UK practice facility on August 18, 2014, I knew I found my calling. For the next 12 months, I worked vigorously until Matt Jones asked me to join the KSR team full time. One of the job’s duties was to produce a podcast with Freddie Maggard and Jared Lorenzen. Twist my arm.
For the next three years, I got to hangout with my childhood hero once a week and talk football. Unlike many in the media biz, Jared didn’t show up just to punch the clock and cash a check. He was there to have fun, bust some chops and talk football. At first, I was too nervous. Hell, my first introduction sounded more like “Gerald Lorenzo” than Jared Lorenzen. Even when I couldn’t correctly say my name, he always treated me like I was one of the guys. Instead of the dumb kid who didn’t know nothing about football, he looked me in the eyes, broke down plays, then gave me a hard time. It was as though we were just a couple of old jocks, hanging out in the locker. In the middle of an uncertain, chaotic time in my life, Jared’s acceptance pushed me forward and affirmed that I was doing the right thing with my life.
Over the course of the three years we spent talking football on a microphone, the man I once idolized became a friend. He wasn’t just the kind of friend you talk sports with either. He was the kind of friend you first asked about each other’s family, then shared a laugh at a silly YouTube video. He was an honest man who was willing to share his life, the good and the bad, with the entire world. His courage and strength will always be an inspiration.
When I grew up, I wanted to be Jared Lorenzen. The quarterback I idolized as a child isn’t half the man I got to befriend as an adult. If the next generation of leaders can live up to the standard Lorenzen set, the future of our state is in good hands.