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By LARRY VAUGHT
Even though his grandmother, Betty Luke, passed away Monday and was being buried in Deland, Fla., on Saturday, freshman running back JoJo Kemp knew he was going to play against Alabama State.
“I knew she would want me to stay here and play,” said Kemp after he ran for 67 yards and one score in Kentucky’s 48-14 win. “She was there with me during my recruitment. She was proud of me for even making it here.
“I had to do this for her and my family back home. I am close to both my mom and dad, so I just prayed a lot. I am a guy that prays in the morning and night every day. I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but I knew this was the right choice.”
Kemp lived with his grandmother, who often took care of him and his younger sister when his mother was at work since his father did not live with them.
“She was always so supportive of me. If I needed her, she was always there,” Kemp said.
He got to go home about two weeks ago to see her and knew then how sick she was since she was in intensive care.
“I did not want to see her like that, but it was good to at least see her and tell her one last time that I loved her,” Kemp said. “I was just hoping we could get this win for her.”
He said it was even more special when he scored on a 7-yard run in the second quarter.
“That was for her,” he said. “I had to approach this week as I had a job to do and try to keep my head focused and keep it all together and do her and my family proud. I wanted this win for her. I knew she would want me to do this, so I wanted to do the best I could.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he was proud of how Kemp played and handled a difficult week.
“He was playing with a heavy heart, but he competed,” Brown said. “It wore on him this week. I am proud of the way he executed knowing his grandmother was buried today.”
Brown said playing in the game was a decision Kemp and his family made.
“If he had wanted to go home for the funeral, I was fine with that. Him and his family had to decide what was right for him,” Brown said. “He made the decision earlier in the week that he felt his grandmother would want him to play. We were glad to have him, but no one would have faulted him for going home.”