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Jacob Tamme appreciates what Joker Phillips did for his career and UK football program


If not for Joker Phillips, Jacob Tamme might not be playing in the NFL today.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch but remember that it was Phillips who wisely moved Tamme from receiver to tight end as soon as he took over as offensive coordinator back in 2006 after Ron Hudson was fired late in the season. Tamme responded with his first touchdown catch at Tennessee in UK’s final regular-season game and went on to become an all-Southeastern Conference selection and NFL draft pick.

That’s why Tamme wasn’t quite sure how to react Sunday when former UK teammate Wesley Woodyard told him after they had helped Denver beat the host Cincinnati Bengals that Phillips had been fired. Both Tamme and Woodyard came back to Lexington last month to show support for Phillips and were on the sideline with him — and UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart,

“We always talk about the program and our time there and we keep up with what’s going on so it wasn’t ‘unexpected’ because I’ve seen the fan base deteriorating. But that doesn’t make it easy, especially for those of us who have so many connections to this staff,” said Tamme. “Joker was instrumental in my development as my position coach and later as offensive coordinator.

“Obviously I don’t know the status of the rest of the staff but I know situations like this are always difficult on those guys — and one of those guys, Chuck Smith, taught me what winning football is.”

Smith was Tamme’s coach at Boyle County when he was on four straight state championship teams and was part of a 47-game win streak. No one has been prouder of Tamme’s success with the Indianapolis Colts and now the Broncos than Smith and no one has praised Smith more than Tamme.

It also has hurt Tamme to see the program he helped start winning games and going to bowl games suffer the way it has the last two years.

“It’s hard, when you look at the success that was built over the last six or seven years, to see this current situation. I think Joker said in his statement (after his dismissal) that ‘change is needed’ – I suppose that is true,” Tamme said. “But it’s hard to see because I know how hard he’s worked and how much he wanted to succeed for our state and school.

“One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is that we’ve seen some great moments in UK football over the past six or seven years. Joker was a big part of all those.”

Those moments included a win over eventual national champion LSU when Tamme was there as well as the goal-post game against Georgia. It includes last year’s win over Tennessee or the 2010 victory over South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier.

Tamme says it’s not hard to remember what his best memories of Phillips will be.

“I remember how excited and proud he was after some of our memorable victories. I remember how far we came as an offense when he took over as offensive coordinator,” Tamme said. “We became a confident group that knew we could score on anybody in the SEC, and we had one of the best offenses in the country my senior year.”

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  1. Bill

    Unfortunately, it is seems easy to forget what a “hot commodity” Joker was when he became the “coach in waiting.” Kentucky’s offense was outstanding when Joker was the OC and there was real concern that Joker would be offered a head coaching position elsewhere. I understand that it hasn’t worked out. Hindsight is always 20-20.

    1. larryvaught

      He was indeed hot at the time Bill

  2. shinny

    Perhaps Joker should have keep Sanders as QB coach and continued to call the offensive plays. What if?

    1. larryvaught

      could not have hurt for sure Shinny

  3. John

    Larry has this name popped up anywhere I know he is an Older Caoh and I have no Idea where he his now but I know he has a good tract record with not only wins and losses but also with players and assistant coaches….Ralph Friedgen… what do you think?

    1. larryvaught

      John, have not heard his name. Believe he’s out of the loop

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you, Jacob Tamme. Also, I, too, only found about Joker’s dismissal after the Bengals/Broncos game. Too, it had been so wonderful to watch Wildcats Jacob Tamme, Wesley Woodyard, and Danny Trevathan (and the rookie is really playing well for the Broncos — six tackles and a sack — so great to see all three of these guys doing well on my pro team!).

    Too, Jacob nicely points out some special Wildcat moments of which Joker, had, indeed, been a huge part. I still remember our almost upsetting the Vols in Knoxville when Joker had taken over as OC and switched Jacob to the tight end position. We surely all remember that we had had a leading offense in the nation when Joker had been OC during those later years of success with Jacob Tamme, Wesley Woodyard, Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, and Rafael Little. Further, like Tamme, I will always be grateful for Joker’s breaking those horrid losing streaks against Steve Spurrier and South Carolina and Tennessee — and, frankly, some who had been anti-Joker from the start never gave him enough credit for those.

    Ironically, too, as someone named “Bill” and I have repeatedly noted here, I will always wonder how this team would have performed if only Maxwell Smith had gotten to play more than three games (and, yes, I know two of those three had been losses, but that had been before our defense had shown a sign of life). I suspect Joker and his staff will always wonder the same. That offense had shown so much potential for excitement in the Louisville game. Regardless, of course, what happened happened, and may we get a head coach and some good fortunes, too, and get this program turned around. Meanwhile may fans remember those memorable moments and show up next Saturday and show our seniors and their teammates — plus Coach Joker Phillips — RESPECT and APPRECIATION.


  5. Tana

    That “Anonymous” post had been from little, ‘ole me, Larry. Also, thanks for talking with Jacob Tamme, an all-time favorite. I surely enjoyed reading his perspective, along with his expression of support for his former position coach/OC.


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