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By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky football players have been invited to not only attend Saturday’s scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium, but also have lunch with the players after the scrimmage. Spouses and children are also invited. Former players can make arrangements to also attend other practices, but coach Joker Phillips set up Saturday’s event specifically for former Cats to have a chance to meet and spend time with the current players.
Freddie Maggard and Andy Murray are two former Wildcats who remain Kentucky fans and regularly attend games. Maggard, who lettered from 1989-1991, lives in Lawrenceburg and Murray, who lettered from 1986-1989, in Independence.
They shared their thoughts on this move by UK to reach out to football alumni.
Question: What do you think of the offer for former players to come have lunch with current players after practice Saturday?
Murray: “I think it is great for the program to reach out to its history and let the current team know and understand that there are still a lot of guys out there that would love to have one more shot in Commonwealth. I also think Joker has done a much better job of reaching out to us than past coaches.”
Maggard: “I appreciate the opportunity. I hope to see a many old friends at the luncheon. Joker’s done more for alumni re-connection than any other coach I can remember. I truly think it’s very important to him as well as it should be. Former players are the program’s best ambassadors; I’ve never understood why we’ve not been engaged more in the past. But, from the Captain’s Breakfast to this, Joker’s vision of a strong alumni base has been evident; I’d like to see that vision supported. I see this is a step in that direction.”
Question: Is this something you would like to see become a tradition at Kentucky?
Murray: “I think that anytime you talk about traditions, you think of established powers in their given sport. Joker is trying to establish his mark, or stamp, on this program and that starts with its history and his knowledge of our history and how hard it has been to establish something of substance. This process of inviting players back is not costly … but I think it can be very beneficial in the long run if we can make everyone feel welcome.”
Maggard: “Absolutely, and more opportunities like this can only strengthen the UK football family. Quite honestly, some guys graduate, leave, and don’t want to come back regardless of where they went to school. That’s understandable, but there are also folks like me that are UK fanatics that side more with being a fan than being a part of the organization if that makes sense. For me personally, I love the alumni events. I get to meet players that I looked up to as a kid and still have the game programs with their autographs on the cover. I remember the 1977 team. My dad gave me a dollar every time I could name all 22 starters before listening to the away games with Cawood (Ledford) at the call. Missing a home game was not an option. Being 10 years old and being the first vehicle in parking lot waiting on the bus to get a high five from Derrick Ramsey. That’s what UK football means to me. We have season tickets, go to away games, and I leave no doubt in the conversation that I’m a UK guy.”
Next: They discuss if this is a needed step to make former players feel more a part of the program.