By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s 2017 football season is just not going to be quite the same for me.
Nothing against coach Mark Stoops and his players, but it won’t be the same for me because of the passing of Steve Wyatt, 59, earlier this week.
Wyatt and his wife, Jennifer, were both huge UK fans and had been forever. How big — they even went to the coaches’ luncheon at the TaxSlayer Bowl in December.
They were also regulars at the game-day tailgate hosted by Dave Hopewell and his wife, Terri. That’s where I first met Steve and his wife.
I’m not sure anyone enjoyed the tailgate more than Steve. It didn’t matter if he was cooking Gator meat before UK played Florida, putting on the shoulder pads that Boom Williams’ father (who was a tailgate regular) wore on game day, taking pictures of anyone or everything at the tailgate, or just relaxing while watching another game on TV and talking about the Cats.
When it came to me, he was happiest when he saw me eat his wife’s pimento cheese sandwiches — which are the best I’ve ever had. Seldom did a tailgate go by when she didn’t make them — and I didn’t sneak a few into the Commonwealth Stadium press box.
When my wife was hospitalized in Lexington, Jennifer Wyatt and Terri Hopewell made me a to-go plate that fed me for days.
Steve was always in a good mood. And I mean always. He loved to talk about gardening and playing the guitar — even though I always joked that it was hard for me to believe he could stay still long enough to play.
Steve often sent me e-mails with UK-related info or speculation. He always believed this was going to be the year the football team put it all together
Numerous parents of UK players stopped by the tailgate. Steve loved talking to them about the team but also about what their sons were like away from football. But he was just as apt to talk to anyone else. I’m not sure he ever met a stranger.
Rest in peace, Steve, and just know that any time I eat pimento cheese — or Gator — I will be thinking about you.
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There will be a Gathering of Family and Friends from 1-4 p.m. with a celebration of Steve’s life at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at Clark’s Legacy Center in Brannon Crossing.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Woodford Humane Society in Versailles.