By LARRY VAUGHT
Kudos again to the University of Kentucky for honoring four players — Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg — who integrated Southeastern Conference football in the last 1960’s with the UK preseason schedule poster.
The foursome will also have a statue honoring them unveiled at Commonwealth Stadium Sept. 22 before UK hosts South Carolina Sept. 24.
The poster, which was distributed free to fans at Kroger stores across the state, featured four players from this year’s team in poses modeled after the statue.
Their former teammate, Paul Karem, spearheaded the movement to have the four honored. He’s worked on the project for several years and could not be happier that the four are being recognized for what they did.
“With all that is going on in this country right now, this is a story that needs to be told,” Karem said. “It has taken these guys a long time to be recognized, but if we had done this 10 or 20 years ago, it would have been forgotten. Now it should mean even more because of recent events across our country.
“Doing this 50 years later sheds more light on the whole thing. The biggest thing for me is to make sure everyone knows how remarkable these men are as ambassadors. They were the first black faces seen in SEC uniforms. They all carried themselves with grace and dignity in spite of the road they had to travel and obstacles they faced. They were groundbreakers for integration.”
Karem is grateful that Woodford Reserve came on board as a major sponsor for the documentary being produced by award-winning filmmaker Paul Wagner, a Kentucky graduate. He also said a donor in the Louisville Hall of Fame has donated $50,000 for the project and even Gov. Matt Bevin is rumored to be interested in the potential for making this into a feature film eventually.
Karem also appreciates what UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart has done.
“Mitch pushed hard for the statue and deserves so much credit for these men being honored,” Karem said. “Mitch was the first AD who saw the importance of this.”