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By LARRY VAUGHT
During his three-year career, Patrick Towles broke the passing records that former University of Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen set at Fort Thomas Highlands â€” and no one was happier than Lorenzen.
â€œI challenged him in high school to prove he could break all my records and also shoot for (quarterback) Gino Guidugli and he topped all that and made me look like an idiot,â€ said Lorenzen. â€œThe best thing is he was always wanting to know more. It was, â€˜Tell me this, what can I learn.â€™ He had no ego at all and that was really cool to see in someone so young.â€
Towles was the center piece of UKâ€ˆcoach Joker Phillipsâ€™ recent signing class. The 6-5, 240-pound Towles, a Parade All-American and Kentuckyâ€™s Mr. Football, completed 171 of 279 passes in 2011 for 3,820 yards and 42 touchdowns while running for 589 yards and 15 scores. In his career, he passed for 7,429 yards and 73 touchdowns and ran for 1,718 yards and another 38 scores. His team went 44-1 and won three straight state titles.
Lorenzen, who helped coach Highlands in 2010, says â€œwithout questionâ€ Towles is better prepared to play at UKâ€ˆthan he was.
â€œEverything changed when I came out in â€˜99. Coaches talk a lot more, offenses have evolved a lot more,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œThe offense Highlands runs is a lot closer now to what UKâ€ˆruns. Heâ€™s bigger, stronger and faster than I was coming out of high school. He is as ready as a senior can be to jump into college football.â€
Some are speculating Towles could challenge Morgan Newton, last yearâ€™s starter for most of the season, or Maxwell Smith, who started after Newton was hurt, for the No. 1 quarterback job. Lorenzen redshirted his freshman season, and was glad he did.
â€œI thought I was ready to play.â€ˆI wasnâ€™t. The best thing I ever did was redshirt,â€ Lorenzen said. â€œI tellâ€ˆPat the best thing he could do is redshirt. Travel, go to games, see what everything is like. But donâ€™t play.
â€œHaving said that, the day after basketball is over I am going to work with him and make sure he will be ready if he has to step in. He wants to start right away, so Iâ€ˆhave to have him ready. In a perfect world, he would redshirt, learn and come back and play four years.â€
Playing as a freshman requires not only talent, which Towles has, but also poise.
â€œYou either have it or you donâ€™t. Itâ€™s hard to learn poise under pressure,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œHe gets upset if he makes a bad throw or has a pick (interception). If he was not mad about it, I would be worried. But he forgets and doesnâ€™t dwell on bad plays. He just keeps his cool and does not let others around him lose their cool. He does not do anything to hurt his team.â€
Lorenzen is glad Towles signed with Kentucky. He says there were no â€œdrawbacksâ€ in his mind with Kentucky.
â€œI told him he was a Kentucky kid raised on Kentucky football. If that is all you know and what you love, what are you missing by going to Kentucky. You are making your dreams come true and there is also a very good chance you will play a lot. When it is all said and done, the cream always rises to the top at any school,â€â€ˆLorenzen said. â€œThere are people in the NFL from all over the place. If you are good enough, you will be seen. So why not play in front of the people you love the most?
â€œTo me, it was a no-brainer for him to come to Kentucky. Same with me. Itâ€™s close to home, but not far away. If you can go help turn the program around, why wouldnâ€™t you. All these guys that are going out of state to play, why? If you grew up loving Kentucky, why go anywhere else. It is a lot of fun playing at the University of Kentucky. You can have more fun that you ever imagined.â€
Lorenzen says the chance to win at Kentucky is much better now, too.
â€œItâ€™s not even close to what it was when I was there,â€ he said. â€œWe went 2-9 back-to-back years. You see where coach (Rich) Brooks took them. They had a coaching change and have had a minor slip, but we will be back. Itâ€™s like riding a roller coaster when you change coaches. Joker will get them back where they need to be and Pat will help. Joker can recruit and coach. Heâ€™s just got to get guys ready to go. Itâ€™s the SEC and does not get any harder. Just look at who wins the national championship every year. You are going to hit a bumpy road playing in the SEC.
â€œI think Patâ€™s commitment early was huge for Kentucky. You see guys not sure what they are going to do and then a star commits and you want to play with other starts. Thatâ€™s just human nature. You want to play with the best. These guys talk to each other all the time. You see one stud go to Kentucky, then you want to go. Look at the basketball team every year. (John) Calipari gets one commit early and it helps all the ones who are teetering.â€
Towles father, Terry, says his son didnâ€™t mind being the face of UK recruiting because of his early commitment.
â€œI donâ€™t think all the attention bothered him from a sports perspective. Actually, the whole season was almost surreal. I donâ€™t think anybody could have realistically pictured the season and career he had and we just all hope it continues at UK,â€ Terry Towles said. â€œHe has not changed at all. Heâ€™s never got big-headed. Heâ€™s stayed grounded. He has tutored a kid at school each week. He realizes now it is even more important for him to stay grounded. Heâ€™s made a conscious effort to do that, too. Heâ€™s the same kid he always was, maybe just a little bit more mature.
â€œActually, he relished that position in recruiting.. His only frustration came from the constant questions about his commitment. I remember at the state final when he told a reporter he would write it in stone if he could. He did get a little tired of always having to defend his commitment to Kentucky. Being the face of the program, or recruiting, did not bother him but all the negativity did. He was always going to Kentucky.â€
Lorenzen says â€œthere is not one best thingâ€ that Towles â€” who spend his spring break last week at Kentuckyâ€™s spring practice trying to get a head start on learning the offense â€” does.
â€œWhat he really does well is win. That trumps throwing the ball 70 yards or running a 4.4 (40-yard dash). He lost one game at Highlands. One game,â€ Lorenzen said. â€œCan he threw 65-70 yards? Yes. Can he run fast? Sure he can. Is he accurate? Yes. He has everything you want and he wins. That trumps everything. He is just a really good kid. You will not have any disciplinary problems with him. He wonâ€™t be out late. He will show up early. He will have a 3.5 (grade-point average) or better.
â€œHe is definitely more mature than I was. I think about 95 percent of kids probably are. They have all these summer camps, one-on-one time. Itâ€™s a whole different world. Thatâ€™s why it has been neat to watch Pat from when Iâ€ˆfirst met him as a sophomore to now. Heâ€™s way mature beyond his year. He is a fun kid to be around. And whenever possible, I am going to be back at Kentucky to see him play because Iâ€ˆknow how good heâ€™s going to be.â€