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By LARRY VAUGHT
During his senior season at Fort White (Fla.), A.J. Legree caught 47 passes for 698 yards and10 touchdowns and made six interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns, from his cornerback position. He was a Class AAA first-team all-state selection and named the Area Player of the Year by the Gainesville Sun.
He had a big performance in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game and was named the No. 2 prospect in the game by Rivals.com and the “Sleeper of the Night” by Scout.com. Now he’s one of the players Kentucky coach Joker Phillips helps might bring big-play potential to a Kentucky offense that struggled for yards and points last year. Legree shared these thoughts at UK’s Media Day.
Question: When did you start high jumping?
Legree: “I actually started my sophomore year and then went 6-10 as a junior (and won the state championship). I didn’t jump my senior year. I justs kind of chilled and trained for football and stuff like that. I did think about 7-0, but I loved football and steered toward that. I still believe I could do it (clear 7-0). I know I could do it.”
Question: Did you just know you would be a great high jumper?
Legree: “I kind of just wanted to try it out. I didn’t really do it. I just wanted to see.”
Question: Does that leaping ability help you in football?
Legree: “It does. It helps me explode up. When I thinking about it, I actually think it helped in basketball, too, but in football I just think about jumping to where the ball is and getting to it.”
Question: Were you just born jumping that high in the air?
Legree: “They always said when you walk on your toes, it is that kind of deal. I always could do things, but I never really noticed it until that year (in track). I could just always jump. It was no big deal.”
Question: Did playing both ways in high school, something not every player does now, help you?
Legree: “I think it does. You understand what the defensive guy or the offensive guy is trying to do to you. It does help a lot.”
Question: How was your summer?
Legree: “It was good. Workouts let the team bond real good and I think we are going to shock a lot of people this year. We can’t do anything but go up as a team.”
Question: Have you heard the negativity about the program?
Legree: “We hear things all the time, but we let it go in one ear and out the other. We are just going to try to bang people up this year and shock the world.”
Question: Did you feel a bit overlooked in the Florida recruiting rankings?
Legree: “I understood because I was coming from a fairly new school, so I knew our school would not be looked at as much as a school that has been exposed (in the media) for years and had always been putting guys in college. I was the first guy to come from Fort White to Division 1. I am pretty sure they will get more recruiting attention now.
“I think I got the right credibility I deserve. All it does is make me work harder. I like being underrated. That is why I came to Kentucky. Underrated school. I like shocking people. I think our team we had a couple of mistakes last year in some games. I think this year we will have everything. We have the missing pieces this year. I believe we will be better at some things. I do think I can help, too.”
Question: What do you think of freshman receiver DeMarcus Sweat?
Legree: “He is going to have the crowd on their feet. He is going to be one of those guys. He is real explosive, good hands. He is going to be one of those special guys.”
Question: Who has had the biggest impact on your football career?
Legree: “I would say my cousin, Kendall Pope. He has probably had the biggest impact on pushing me. Standing behind me and making sure I am doing the right things. Just standing behind me and making sure I do the right things. He played a couple years ago at Florida State and he kind of pushed me. And my mom and family.”
Question: What does your family think about you being at Kentucky?
Legree: “They know that I am doing great things. They are pushing me and for me to play my best. They know free education, lot of exposure for football. They love it. I know it is a little tough on them with the distance, but they love it.”