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By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky football players have been invited to not only attend Saturday’s scrimmage at Commonwealth Stadium, but also have lunch with the players after the scrimmage. Spouses and children are also invited. Freddie Maggard and Andy Murray are two former Wildcats who remain Kentucky fans and regularly attend games. Maggard, who lettered from 1989-1991, lives in Lawrenceburg and Murray, who lettered from 1986-1989, in Independence.
They shared their thoughts on this move by UK to reach out to football alumni.
Question: Do you see this as a step to maybe make former players feel more a part of the program than many seem to now?
Murray: “I think the former players feel a connection to Joker and these kids and will always feel connected based on the sacrifices we made during our time in Lexington.”
Maggard: “I would like to hope so. Like I said earlier, Joker Phillips has stressed former player re-connection more than any other coach I can remember. But, Joker is the head coach. His responsibilities don’t allow him to coordinate the events, stuff invitation envelopes, send email invites, or work the grill. He is and should be focused on the big picture.
“It’s paramount that his vision is supported from within the program, alumni organizations, and from the University. These groups require synchronization to enact a successful alumni program. Somebody may ask why this is so important. It must be significant; many SEC programs have a person on staff just for Alumni Relations. Alumni functions are not accidental and require in-depth planning and organization. But more importantly, it takes passion.
“I’m excited to see Jeremy Jarmon in his new role and would like to see former players of all generations welcomed, not just pocketed tenures. We don’t need separate Brooks’ guys, Mumme’s guys, or even Claiborne’s guys. We need UK Men. We don’t have to look far to see a successful example. The family environment atmosphere is one thing that is universally praised in Rupp Arena. ’d like to see that same ‘welcome home passion to former football players as well. That’s a win-win for all things UK.”
Question: What could this mean to the current players to have a chance to meet former players such as yourself?
Maggard: “I’m not sure I bring much to the table there, but I think it’s very important that current players meet alumnus like Lt. Col. Travis Powers, a former walk-on quarterback from Middlesboro that ended up as a long-snapper and special teams’ captain that battled through knee surgeries to contribute to the program he dearly loves. Travis is now a Marine Corp Aviator. So is Major Jeff Speedy. I bet most players on the team and sadly some fans have never heard of Wilbur Hackett who was a courageous SEC pioneer in the 60’s. To say it was an honor to meet him would be a tremendous understatement.
“Those are just a few examples of how former Wildcats have developed leadership at the University that have real-world ramifications. I know Lt. Col. Powers and Mr. Hackett have both attended our Captain’s Breakfast in the past. Those stories should and must be shared within the program and with our fans. I’ve always said UK football fans are the best in the SEC. I’d like to even see a fan appreciation day. Certainly they’ve earned that reward.”
Next: What former players would like to share with current players.