By LARRY VAUGHT
While former University of Kentucky basketball players continue to correctly praise John Calipari for the way he’s embracing them, many former UK football players continue to wonder why the same feeling is not always present for the football program.
Former players talk about a disconnect from the program even though current UK coach Joker Phillips certainly has made UK players now playing in the NFL welcome this summer and seems to be doing the right things to reach out to former Cats.
Here’s what former all-American quarterback Derrick Ramsey shared when I asked him about this.
Question: Should Kentucky do more to embrace former football players much like John Calipari is doing now in basketball?
Ramsey: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Absolutely. No question. You look around the country at all the great programs and their former players are involved. Hell, we are the ears and eyes across the country for the Kentucky program. We have to be involved for us to be successful. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no question about that, or shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How frustrating is that?
Ramsey: Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s very damn frustrating. Not speaking just for myself, but for guys period.Ã¢â‚¬Ë†I think Joker has started to understand that and from what I understand he wants to change that. He called and asked me to come back for the spring game but IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†already had a prior commitment, so I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t able to make it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everywhere you look around the country … look at Alabama, LSU, Ohio State … and all the great programs have guys from the 60Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, 70Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, 80Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s on the sideline on game day. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what it is all about. We have to put the same emphasis on football we do on basketball and I think Calipari is on the mark with that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Do those schools you mention involve former players in game day activities with fans and current players?
Ramsey: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Both. When they see you, the fans have to be able to touchÃ‚Â you. The amazing thing about this is that fans want to know what you are doing, how you got to that point. It gives them an opportunity to stay in contact with you and for you to touch them. It lets you stay engaged in the program. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also interesting when I tell people that there was not one team in the conference that beat us more than we beat them while I was here.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We split with Tennessee. Actually, Georgia did beat us two out of three years. We beat LSU three out of four, Florida three out of four. Vanderbilt every time. Mississippi State we split. Nobody dominated us. We dominated most of them. The fact we did it then, so hell yeah we can do it now. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no question we can do it.Ã¢â‚¬Â