Kentucky plans on being “Oats Strong” this Saturday when the Cats face off against Auburn. That’s the message the team will be wearing on their wrists, in order to honor their teammate Chris Oats, who was sidelined by an unexpected medical emergency in May. Oats is currently recovering from the undisclosed medical emergency in a rehabilitation center, and he is expected to miss the entire season.
Still, the Big Blue Nation will see No. 22 making plays on the field this year, since various members of the team will salute Oats by wearing his jersey during games.
“It’ll be emotional,” defensive coordinator Brad White told the media Wednesday evening. “I know each player that gets to wear it is going to take great pride in wearing that… [Oats] is the definition of a fighter, and we draw strength from him. To be able to see that No. 22 running around is going to be special.”
Fellow linebacker DeAndre Square is the first Wildcat to take a turn with jersey No. 22.
— DeAndre Square (@d_square10) September 21, 2020
“It’s an honor to wear his jersey on Saturday,” Square said Wednesday. “It’s been tough because I know he’s working hard and wants to be out here going through practices. Not having him out there is kind of tough, but we go out there everyday, every week and work hard for him, knowing he’s working hard on his own.”
Another key piece of Kentucky’s defense, Josh Paschal, showed off his “#22 Oats Strong” bracelet during Wednesday’s zoom meeting.
After receiving so much support of his own last year while undergoing treatment for malignant melanoma, Paschal appreciates the opportunity to spread that same love to his teammate now.
“DeAndre Square is wearing Oats’s number this week so Chris knows he’s out there with us and that we love him,” Paschal said. “And we have these bracelets for him, which say #22 Oats Strong. That’s our brother, and we keep him close to us right now.”
“Chris is always on the top of our mind,” Coach White said. “He’s a vital part of this team and even though he may not be with us on the practice field physically, his presence is always felt. To be able to have that No. 22 out on the field will be something special.”