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Former players think excitement at all time high for Kentucky football


I asked former University of Kentucky football players Derek Abney, Freddie Maggard, Jason Todd, Andy Murray and Dave Hopewell a series of questions about Kentucky football. This is the first of a series of posts over the next few days with their answers.

Question: Do you remember a time when there was more excitement over UK football, especially coming off a 2-10 season?
Hopewell: “For me personally only one time. I was a freshman at UK in 1975 and we went 2-8-1. I sure hated to go home that Christmas. I could feel the embarrassment for me from my entire family. But we as a team knew we were better than that and the next two years we went 9-3 and then 10-1 and won the last SEC Championship UK has ever won in football. That’s still my dream for this team.
“But as a parent of players and as a fan, no I have never seen this much excitement. I do feel most fans are really happy about the way things have gone with this hire. It looks like coach Stoops has been given free rein on what he was wanting to do and I am really glad to see that.”

Todd: “The only thing I have to compare this to is the transition from Coach Curry to Coach Mumme between the 1996 and 1997 seasons.  UK spent a lot of time and money getting out the word about the “air raid” offense that Mumme was bringing.  Now we have the “air raid” part II and to go along with it, we have Coach Stoops and his background on the defensive side.  As much as most fans will be excited about the offensive potential, I am just excited to see what Coach Stoops will be able to do with our defense.  I would like nothing better than to have a defense that can stop people in the SEC.  Regardless of the outcome, I will forever be a UK fan and avid supporter.”

Maggard: “I can’t, and I’ve been a fanatic since birth. Maybe after coach Jerry Claiborne’s first-second season, but today’s instant communication and social media takes this to a level uncharted at UK.”

Murray: “Not since the afternoon of us beating  Louisville  and listening to the Air Raid sirens in Commonwealth Stadium.”

Abney: “Absolutely not. And the excitement seems entirely justifiable.”

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  1. shinny

    I’m not a former player (duh) but from my perspective as a long time BB football fan and to the excitment around the program i say”That’s what I’m talking about”. We will pack LP Field to prove it too!!!

    1. larryvaught

      Great comments Shinny

  2. TheProfessor

    I also agree that I have not experienced this level of excitement with the football program, even following the many head coaching hires over the years.

    The closest I can relate to excitementwise was during the 1976 and 1977 seasons when the team was clearly one of the best ever at UK, but that excitement was dampened by the knowledge of NCAA sanctions coming after the 1976 season, and their reality during the 1977 season.

  3. Larry Pup

    I agree with the professor. Something he said set me off. I still say all that crap about the 1976 team was nothing but a witch hunt. Very unfortunate time in UK football history. Curci was the greatest since the Bear era. That 1977 team was great. If we can ever line em up again like that team, we should punish a lot of sec teams that have beaten our brains out all these many years. Like Florida,Tennessee, LSU, Alabama. Man do they owe some dues.
    I hope these football coaches at UK now will pour it on! Bless God all these other hot shot teams score at will on KENTUCKY!. I say if you can, beat their brains out! People say “well that will come back to haunt you” I say so what! The offense is out there to score points. Just ask Spurrier. Cal don’t have a problem with beating teams by 30 or 40 points. Sorry, Just went off there for a while!

    1. Larry Pup

      I lived in Florida in 1977. I took my twin sons to see UK play Florida at the swamp. We met the team and players when they got off the bus before the game. I got to shake coach Curci’s hand. My little boys were 8 years old. We were like three little boys looking up to monster football players, Art Still, Ramsey, I still remember that day like it was yesterday. UK won 14 to 7 and had beaten the sorry gators two years in a row. UK finsished the season that year ranked 6th or 7th in the nation. Great team!

  4. Kokamo Joe

    I’d love to say that the excitement is at an all time high, but I cannot. A new coach always brings excitement, and it has happened at UK time and time again. (anybody remember when Bill Curry came from…gasp…Alabama?) Yes, Commonwealth will sell out as it has always sold out for a new coach. If this new bunch is to turn this program around and make it competetive in the SEC, it will take time. Let’s support this team and give the coaches time. But let us not get so caught up with the new coaches that we do not look to UK and Mitch Barnhart to place much more emphasis on football. This is a test for Barnhart. He can do one of two things: (1) he can push football and get behind this team and it’s coaches or (2) he can let things go as they have been and count the new ticket money and thake SEC payoff to the bank. We will know what his approach will be in about three years.

  5. TrueBlueJohn

    The 77 team had the most unstoppable goal line offense that I have ever seen. They would bring in Art Still (All-American defensive end) at tight end right beside Warren Bryant (all-American offensive tackle) and roll Derrick Ramsey right behind them. It looked like two bulldozers followed by a battering ram. How I long for those days again. Now I have some hope of seeing them again. I am officially excited.

    1. kokamo joe

      Fran Curci’s 1977 team was the last time that UK really committed in the SEC. Sadly that team was clouded by some off the field things and the fact that the program was placed on probation and UK could not participate in a major bowl game. Curci’s first team went 2-8-1 and then we had the great 1976 and 1977 run. Sadly after that UK did what UK has always done after any brief success, it went in 1978 to 4-6-1 and by the time that Curci was done in 1982 the Cats were on the bottom again with a 0-10-1 record. To Curci’s credit, he did not load UK’s schedule with cupcakes. Curci was followed by ex UK great Jerry Clairbourne who softened the schedule a bit. By Clairbourne’s second year the Cats went 9 and 3 and beat Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl. We thought that UK was on the way to greatness, but after that Clairbourne never had a winning season. He was followed by Bill Curry, and surely this ex Alabama guy was going to bring us to glory. We know his record. My point? New coaches bring excitement. Barnhart has opened the check book for assistants. That is a good sign. Rather than heaping praise on Barnhart for doing his job, it would watch and wait for that support to continue and if it does just maybe the past will not be repeated.

  6. RJ

    I hope some of the excitment rubs off on our players. If they do the “wait and see” dance, they’re going to get left behind.

  7. Jim

    If you are a Kentucky fan and you can’t get excited about Stoops and Neil Brown, you don’t have a pulse.

    1. larryvaught

      Oh Jim, I think all UK fans have a pulse that is racing right now

      1. RJ

        It’s not September yet!!!???

  8. TrueBlueJohn

    11 days until Christmas, no bowl game to wait on, and we are still talking football!!!! Now that’s what I call excitement.

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