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By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ No one will be happier to see Kentucky start preseason practice than senior running back Derrick Locke.
First, he has huge expectations for himself and his team. He has already rushed for 1,731 yards Ã¢â‚¬â€ heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 10th on the all-time UK career rushing list Ã¢â‚¬â€ and scored 15 total touchdowns.
He has two 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns, a feat no other UK player has accomplished. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a preseason all-Southeastern Conference choice both as a running back and kick returner.
Second, starting the season will finally put to rest the questions about his summer moped accident that left him with a broken bone in his wrist.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was something that shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have happened, but it happened. I am over it. I am good to go. I will learn from it. I am ready to go. I am excited for this season,Ã¢â‚¬Â Locke said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am ready to stop all this conditioning, put some pads on, hit some people, make some moves and check myself out and see how I am.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am doing rehab, but I am catching and holding the ball. I am tired of talking about it and want to show people I am good to go.Ã¢â‚¬Â
First-year Kentucky coach Joker Phillips likes what he has seen and heard from Locke during the offseason.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is starting to be a good leader. That has not always been him. I think he is now understanding the team concept and is starting to lead this football team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Phillips said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have forced him also to be a leader for us because of his presence. When he does speak, people are listening. We had to tell him that and that we also hoped the right things came out of his mouth. Now they are.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Locke shared his insights on a variety of subjects as the Wildcats prepare to report to preseason camp on Thursday:
Question: What kind of expectations do you have for your senior season?
Locke: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I expect to do big things. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be known as an underrated player. I want my respect and what I have to do to get that, I am going to get it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When they line up and play us, I want them to know they have to contain him and watch this guy because he can do this and that. I want them to know I can do it all and not just a little, fast back.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of my main goals. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about respect. If you get respect, numbers will come. I just want to get my respect. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What is life like under Joker Phillips, and is that different from when Rich Brooks was coach?
Locke: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a lot different. I am not going to say it is good or bad. I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say he expects more, but he really does expect more off the field. Part of his Ã¢â‚¬ËœOperation WinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ is win in the classroom, win in the community.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He wants to play fast. The only way we will get better is by getting more reps, so he wants the intensity at a crazy pace. That is how it is.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do everything. His thing is to get people around him to do the things he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do. Bring in coaches who can help our intensity and get us stronger. Bring in coaches who do more. That is one thing I respect about him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I feel every change he has made has a plus side. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t knock him or say anything bad about him. To me we are going in the right direction to being the program we want to be in the future.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How do you like new strength coach Rock Oliver?
Locke: Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is here to show me things and teach me things that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how to do. That is the main thing I am taking from him. The workouts and all that stuff, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have knownÃ‚Â what to expect if I went to the NFL. I know what to expect now.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has been there (with the Cincinnati Bengals) and knows what I need to do. He knows everything that I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. I take that as a plus side and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think it is a negative the way he brings his intensity.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s different. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s outspoken. He is a little rowdy at times, but you have to respect him, and I know he can do things to get me places I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get by myself.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Next: Locke talks about the NFL, his family and returning kicks.