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Larry Warford

Larry Warford

Larry Warford

By LARRY VAUGHT

If Larry Warford is right, it won’t be 20 years before another Kentucky offensive lineman is picked in the NFL draft like it had been when the Detroit Lions took him in the third round this year.

“Yeah I’m hoping. We’ve got a lot of good guys on the offensive line this year. We had a lot of young guys (last season) and we had to throw them in the fire right away because we were pretty thin on the offensive line,” said Warford. “With them gaining that experience it’s going to make them great players.

“Darrian (Miller) is going to be really good. Zach Myers and Zach West, I saw those guys play and they are going to be good ones, so I’m hoping that I won’t be the last one for a while and I believe they can change that for sure.”

Warford almost wishes he was still at UK after what he saw at the Blue-White Game.

“When I walked into the spring game I was in shock. I have never seen that before. I wanted to jump back on the field with them and wanted to be out there with those guys in that excitement,” Warford said. “Coach Stoops has been doing a great job in getting people back in the program again and doing a great job with the excitement of the team.

“I go out to practice and talk to the guys and they are so energetic about it and so excited about what is to come. That plays a big role into how well they will do this season because if you are excited about it then it makes you want to learn and want to be better. Coach Stoops has been doing a great job about that and I am excited for them.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Back when Larry Warford played for Madison Central, offensive line coach Mark Scenters had a unique, but effective, way of motivating his star lineman — a Wendy’s Baconator.

“We used to have a running deal that if any lineman graded out well and played really well, it would result in him getting a big burger,” said Scenters, now the head coach at Garrard County. “He got a few for sure, and probably deserved more than I could afford. At least now he shouldn’t have to worry about how many he buys. Maybe he’ll be smart and just get a franchise.”

Warford, an All-American guard at Kentucky, was picked in the third round — 65th overall pick — by the Detroit Lions in last week’s NFL draft.

Warford admitted last week that he wished he had listened to Scenters and head coach Kenny Turner more when he was at Madison Central.

“I wish I would have listened to them a little bit more, it would have made my life a lot easier as a freshman. Coming in and doing the conditioning test, it just woke me up that I needed to do something about my conditioning when I first got here,” Warford said. “If I would have listened to them and ran a little more I wouldn’t have been hurting as much. It would have been a much easier transition for me if I would have listened a little more.”

He says he still has phone numbers for both coaches — and even joked that he wanted another Baconator from Scenters.

“They are my friends. I love them, they have been supportive of me throughout my career and been keeping in touch with me. I will keep in touch with them when I get into the league,” Warford said.

Scenters definitely will stay in touch. He says he would like to have Warford come to Garrard to interact with his players.

“He has been so busy at UK that I hated to disturb him and even ask,” the Garrard coach said. “I also did not want to take any chances with his eligibility and put him in a situation where me might have inadvertently violated a rule. Perhaps now his schedule will work out so he can get over here. I would love to have him for our youth football camp. Maybe the guy in charge (Scenters) can adjust the camp date to work that out.”

Scenters feels former UK offensive line coach Mike Summers helped Warford reach his lofty status.

“I think coach Summers was one of the best things ever to happen to him,” Scenters said. “He’s almost like a professor of line play. I have seen guys that are loud and intense and scream a lot when they teach. Coach Summers was a technician. He taught Larry so much over the year and technique-wise, Larry didn’t make many mistakes thanks to him. Larry will listen and take to heart what you teach him. He always knew how to use his body. All that has contributed to what he is today.”

While Warford is easy-going off the field, Scenters believes his on-field personality is what helps make him special and destined for NFL success.

“When he steps on the field, he goes into a different realm. He has the ability to be special like the good ones do. He changes his mindset on the field,” Scenters said. “He goes to battle. He was that way in practice. He has a great work ethic. I loved his workman-like mentality. When he came to practice, he was ready to work and do what we told him. He’s improved so much over the years because he was willing to listen and work. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

For Larry Warford, what he thought was the right decision turned out to be exactly the right thing for him. The University of Kentucky offensive lineman was picked in the third round Friday by the Detroit Lions with the 65th overall pick — the third pick in the third round — and is going to a team that listed bolstering its offensive line as a pre-draft goal.

To understand how impressive Warford’s pick, consider two things:

— Randall Cobb, one of the best players ever at UK, was taken with the 64th overall pick by Green Bay two years ago and has blossomed into a NFL star.

— Kentucky had not had an offensive lineman drafted since Todd Perry (fourth round) and Chuck Bradley (sixth round) in 1993.

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said the 6-3, 330-pound Warford was a “match” for what the team needed and that he could find himself put into the guard spot opposite Rob Sims and next to center Dominic Raiola on a line that would have a pair of first-year starter.

“He’s made to play guard in the NFL,” Schwartz told The Associated Press.

Warford had contemplated putting his name into the NFL draft a year ago, but decided against it. He also noted last week when talking with UK media members that he could never see a player going into the NFL draft after one year in college like basketball players routinely do with the NBA.

“People would get hurt. It really would not be fair in football. If you go play college for one year, you are 18-19 years old? You haven’t matured enough yet emotionally or (in) strength. You don’t understand the game well enough. I don’t care who you are, you are going to get hurt,” Warford said. “I think it is good you have to stay for three years. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. That is a man’s game in the NFL. I couldn’t really see that being a part of the NCAA.”

“There would be a select few that could handle it financially and being able to handle their money. A majority wouldn’t. You go to a high school kid to one year in college to getting all this wealth and I don’t believe that you would have to the time to prepare yourself with that. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that kind of money. People would be wrecking their lives buying everything and wasting their money and not being prepared for what comes after football. For a lot of people, football is everything and they don’t have anything else. I can’t see that.”

Now Warford is ready for the “man’s game” in the NFL. He dealt with adversity early as he attended 13 schools because his father was in the Navy and his parents divorced. His mother lives in Samoa and he’s not seen her since 2007 — and she never saw him play once he came to Kentucky to play at Madison Central High School and then UK.

Warford did not allow a quarterback sack last season and had 48 knockdown blocks and became the first UK offensive lineman to earn All-America status since Mike Pfeifer in 1989 and the first to receive the honor from the Associated Press since Warren Bryant earned second-team honors in 1976. He started his last 37 games at Kentucky.

He admitted last week he has changed dramatically at UK.

“I’m a lot more confident in myself. I’m very critical of myself still but when I first got to UK I thought I wasn’t great at all. I went from high school to college and I wasn’t dominating like I was but I failed to realize that there is a lot better talent in college,” he said. “Having gone through my years at UK these last four years and steadily becoming a better player, I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and my play and it has helped me progress a lot.”

Garrard County coach Mark Scenters was Warford’s offensive line coach at Madison Central. He was looking for Detroit hats and T-shirts Friday night after Warford was drafted and plans to see him play this season. However, he’s not surprised at Warford’s success.

“As soon as he came in, we got on film and saw a state championship game he played at San Diego Charger Stadium in California as a sophomore and you could tell right away from the film he was special,” Scenters said. “Once we got to work him out, you just do not see grown men his size move that well. That is something that I was taken aback by immediately.

“I listened to the Detroit coach get a lot of questions about his mobility after they picked him. But he has amazingly good feet and such a low center of gravity for a big kid that his balance is always good. He always knew how to play with his hands and we loved getting him out on sweeps or screen passes and let guys run behind him because anybody in front of him didn’t last long. So, no, it was easy to tell this day could easily come for him.”

By UK Media Relations

Kentucky offensive lineman Larry Warford was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round (65th overall pick) of the National Football League draft Friday evening.

Warford, who came to UK from Richmond, Ky., did not allow a quarterback sack as a senior, grading at 90.3 percent for the season and totaling 48 knockdown blocks. He led the UK offensive line, being named game captain five times throughout the season. Warford helped UK tailbacks earn 4.9 yards per carry during the season, including rushing for 342 yards against Samford.

Warford earned third-team All-America honors by Phil Steele’s College Football and The Associated Press. He became the first UK offensive lineman to earn All-America status since Mike Pfeifer (first team by Football News, Mizlou) in 1989 and the first to receive the honor from the AP since Warren Bryant earned second-team honors in 1976. All totaled, he is the 12th UK offensive lineman to earn All-America honors in school history.

Warford was named first-team All-SEC by ESPN.com and CBSSports.com and also was named a second-team All-Southeastern Conference performer by SEC coaches, AP, Phil Steele’s College Football and CollegeSportsMadness.com.

Warford ended his UK career having played in 47 games with 37 consecutive starts. The senior was named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week after UK’s win over Kent State, handling blocking responsibilities on KSU’s star lineman Roosevelt Nix. In the game, Warford collected eight knockdown blocks and graded out at 91.7 percent, while limiting Nix to only two assisted tackles.

Warford is the highest draft pick since Randall Cobb was taken in the second round (64th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in 2011, and he’s the first offensive lineman drafted at UK since Todd Perry (fourth round) and Chuck Bradley (sixth round) in 1993.

By LARRY VAUGHT

One thing Larry Warford wants to do once he gets established with a NFL team is get to see his mother again. Colene Warford lives in Samoa and he has not seen her since 2007. She never got to see him play in person during his four-year career at Kentucky or his two years at Madison Central High School.

“I haven’t seen my mother since 2007 so I am planning on going to see her in the next two years. Hopefully, I can bring her back, even if it is just for a little bit,” said Warford. “Bring her to some of my games.  The last time she saw me play was 2006 actually. It was my (high school) sophomore season in California. She saw that game and she hasn’t seen my play since. Having her at one of my games would be amazing to me.”

Warford admits not being able to see her has been difficult for him.

“It has been really tough. I want her around to see what I have been doing with my life and how I have been growing up and maturing as a person,” the UK offensive guard said. “The last time she saw me I was still a kid and running around doing crazy stuff.

“I have changed a whole bunch since then and she hasn’t gotten to see that. I have been keeping in touch with her but actual physical contact with her has been hard not having her here. She tells me to keep strong and keep working and doing what I love. I am planning on bringing her back soon.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Larry Warford admits he’s tired of playing his bass guitar, fishing, working out, driving for no particular reason, playing video games or doing anything else he can to get his mind off this week’s NFL draft.

“I just want to find out (where I will be drafted,” said the Kentucky senior offensive guard Monday. “I am just trying to figure out where I will end up. I shouldn’t be worrying because I have no idea and no control.”

He says he’s heard anywhere from the second to fourth round, but knows things could change.

“Any trade could mess up somebody’s draft plans,” Warford said.

He’s expected to be the first UK offensive lineman drafted since 1993.

“I just want to represent my university. It’s a great place I’ve had so much fun and I have gotten a lot out of it and to represent UK in the draft it means everything to me,” Warford said.. This is something that I really have been wanting to do and take a lot of pride in.

“It’s still kind of like a dream. Since its not here it doesn’t really seem like its real but I’m getting all these calls from these teams asking me for my information for draft day. It’s like, ‘Whoa, I’m here now.’ It’s only a couple days away so the fact that it’s getting so close it’s become more reality and once that day is over I’m going to be in it so I’m pretty excited for that.”

He was first or second team all-Southeastern Conference the last three years, the first time that has happened for a UK offensive lineman since Warren Bryant (1974-76). He was also UK’s first All-American offensive lineman since Mike Pfiefer in 1989 and first Associated Press All-American offensive lineman since Bryant in 1976.

He’s not even sure where he’ll watch the draft, which starts Thursday with the first round and runs through Saturday.

“My dad wants me to come down and have a party with the family and all that but I kind of don’t want to do anything for it. I kind of just want to sit at my house and play video games. I am going to be nervous the whole time, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to be doing,” Warford said.

Warford has worked out for four teams and been interviewed by others — “I just have to make one team like me” — in preparation for the draft. One plus for him could be his ability to also play center, something NFL teams like since only seven offensive linemen are active on game day. He says he even “snapped a little bit at (UK’s Pro Day) for the (New York) Giants” to show he could play that spot as well as both guard positions.

“My last spring here I was actually center most of camp because (center) Matt (Smith) had class. I did pretty well,” Warford said. “I did better than I thought.  I would get confused at times thinking I was the right guard still and do stupid stuff, but as far as working on it in the offseason I got a lot better with my snaps and more consistent.  I have practiced on it a lot. That was one of the things (former UK offensive line) coach (Mike) Summers emphasized last season. He pulled me aside after the 2011 season and told me he wanted me taking snaps all next season because that was a thing that could get scouts looking at me. You are valued more if you can play more than one position.”

He’s also spent time working out in Arizona to reshape his body. He says he “got down” to 328 pounds at one point, but his main goal was to change his body composition to be “more explosive” and not put so much stress on his body. “I have lot a pretty good amount of weight,” Warford said. “I have slimmed down a little bit.”

He says the draft process has been more time-consuming than he imagined with workouts, phone calls and other things.

“It’s actually been pretty time consuming but it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been around the states working out for teams and just meeting all these new people and it’s been real fun, all the great people I’ve met,” he said. “Tackle is always going to be the glamour spot on the offensive line, but this year’s draft guards are really good. Two should go in the first round.”

Warford says getting drafted is “still kind of like a dream” but he realizes soon it will be a reality. However, he has no regrets about not putting his name into the 2012 NFL draft despite UK’s 2-10 finish last year.

“I wasn’t ready last year to come out as a junior. I had a lot to work on. I feel like through this season I’ve have gotten to play against a lot better defensive tackles with the addition of Missouri and going out to play Florida and Georgia those guys have a lot of great defensive tackles so I got to improve my game a lot,” Warford said. “Being coached by Mike Summers, I owe everything to him he’s such a great coach and I just want to represent his teachings that he gave to me in the NFL. I feel like it was a great decision to come back.

“Honestly I wasn’t even debating it last year. I knew that I had a lot to work on and I still believe I do. I’m not a perfect offensive lineman, nobody is, and there’s always something to work on. Keeping that point of view throughout my entire career at UK has helped me progress as a player and become a good one. I’m going to try to keep that mentality and never become complacent with where I’m at.”

He knows now football goes from fun to his daily job.

“It’s different, it’s a lot different. This is somebody’s job. Teams are drafting you to take somebody’s job,” Warford said. “I don’t want to say it’s not as friendly but people have families now and they’re not going to take that sitting down. You have to come in ready to compete and you have to be a man. That’s probably one of the biggest things, you are trying to take somebody’s job and that person isn’t going to lay down and let you.”

Alvin "Bud" Dupree

Alvin “Bud” Dupree

By Evan Crane, UK Media Relations

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Three University of Kentucky football players have been named All-Southeastern Conference performers by Phil Steele’s College Football, the publication announced Wednesday.

Senior offensive lineman Larry Warford headlined the honors as a second-team performer, while junior linebacker Avery Williamson and sophomore linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree were named to the third team.

Warford, who earned third-team All-America honors Tuesday from The Associated Press, has now earned five All-SEC honors. The talented offensive lineman has already received praise this season from SEC coaches, AP, CollegeSportsMadness.com, ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. He is the first UK O-lineman to receive All-SEC accolades for three-consecutive seasons since Warren Bryant in 1974-76.

This is the second honor for Williamson, who was also named second-team All-SEC by CollegeSportsMadness.com. Dupree, who was named a second-team Sophomore All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com, was also named a third-team All-SEC performer by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

Warford received high praise throughout the season from the UK coaching staff for playing with amazing skill up front. He did not allow a quarterback sack all year, grading at 90.3 percent for the season and totaling 48 knockdown blocks.

Avery Williamson

Avery Williamson

The native of Richmond, Ky., ended his UK career having played in 47 games with 37 consecutive starts. The senior was named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week after UK’s win over Kent State, handling blocking responsibilities on KSU’s star lineman Roosevelt Nix. In the game, Warford collected eight knockdown blocks and graded out at 91.7 percent.

Warford began the season on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy Watch Lists. Warford led the UK offensive line, being named game captain five times throughout the season. Warford helped UK tailbacks earn 4.9 yards per carry during the season, including rushing for 342 yards against Samford.

Williamson ended the season first on the team in tackles with 135, including three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two fumbles caused, one fumble recovered, one interception and a quarterback hurry. The high tackle mark ranks him second in the SEC and sixth nationally in tackles per game. The best game of Williamson’s career game this season against Vanderbilt when he recorded 20 tackles to become the first UK player to record 20 or more in a game since Chad Anderson in 2003.

The native of Milan, Tenn., followed his 20-tackle performance with 13 tackles against Samford, becoming the first UK player with 13-plus tackles in four consecutive games since Randy Holleran in 1990. Williamson also had two sacks and a pass breakup against Samford. Williamson posted 10 or more tackles in eight games during the season, including 12 or more in seven games.

Dupree had a breakout year for Kentucky in 2012, finishing second on the team in tackles with 91. The native of Irwinton, Ga., led the team in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss with 6.5 and 12.5, respectively. Dupree’s best game came against Tennessee when he posted 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss. The sophomore posted a career-high 12 tackles against Western Kentucky. Dupree started all 12 games this season and has had a sack, tackle for loss, fumble caused, fumble recovered or pass breakup in 13 of the last 16 games he has played.

Larry Warford

Larry Warford

For more information on the Kentucky football team, follow “UKFootball” on Twitter or visit www.facebook.com/kentuckyfootball.

Warford Named to Senior Bowl Roster: University of Kentucky senior offensive lineman Larry Warford has been selected to participate in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26, 2013 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Kickoff for the game is at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised on the NFL Network. Warford is the first UK player to be selected for the Senior Bowl since Derrick Locke in 2010.

For more information about the Senior Bowl, visit www.seniorbowl.com.

Larry Warford

Larry Warford

By Evan Crane, UK Media Relations

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The honors keep rolling in for University of Kentucky senior offensive guard Larry Warford. After earning All-Southeastern Conference honors by four different media outlets and league coaches, Warford earned his highest honor yet Tuesday when The Associated Press named him a third-team All-American.

This is the first All-America honor for Warford, who becomes the first UK offensive lineman to earn All-America status since Mike Pfeifer (first-team by Football News, Mizlou) in 1989 and the first to receive the honor from the AP since Warren Bryant earned second-team honors in 1976. All totaled, Warford is the 12th UK offensive lineman to earn All-America honors in school history.

So far this offseason, Warford has been named a second-team All-SEC performer by SEC coaches, AP and CollegeSportsMadness.com, while ESPN.com and CBSSports.com named him first-team All-SEC Team on Monday.

Warford received high praise throughout the season from the UK coaching staff for playing with amazing skill up front. He did not allow a quarterback sack all year, grading at 90.3 percent for the season and totaling 48 knockdown blocks.

The native of Richmond, Ky., ended his UK career having played in 47 games with 37 consecutive starts. The senior was named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week after UK’s win over Kent State, handling blocking responsibilities on KSU’s star lineman Roosevelt Nix. In the game, Warford collected eight knockdown blocks and graded out at 91.7 percent while limiting Nix to only two assisted tackles.

Warford began the season on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy Watch Lists, while he was chosen as a first-team midseason All-SEC selection by Phil Steele’s College Football. Warford led the UK offensive line being named game captain five times throughout the season. Warford helped UK tailbacks earn 4.9 yards per carry during the season, including rushing for 342 yards against Samford.

Bud Dupree Named Sophomore All-America

LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky sophomore linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree has been named second-team Sophomore All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com for his impressive season.

This is the second honor of the season for Dupree, who was named a third-team All-Southeastern Conference performer by CollegeSportsMadness.com last week.

Dupree had a breakout year for Kentucky in 2012, finishing second on the team in tackles with 91. The native of Irwinton, Ga., led the team in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss with 6.5 and 12.5, respectively. Dupree’s best game came against Tennessee when he posted 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss. The sophomore posted a career-high 12 tackles against Western Kentucky. Dupree started all 12 games this season and has had a sack, tackle for loss, fumble caused, fumble recovered or pass breakup in 13 of the last 16 games he has played.

For more information on the Kentucky football team, follow “UKFootball” on Twitter or visit www.facebook.com/kentuckyfootball.

Seniors Matt Smith and Larry Warford carry UK coach Joker Phillips from the field after the win over Samford. (Victoria Graff photo)

Seniors Matt Smith and Larry Warford carry UK coach Joker Phillips from the field after the win over Samford. (Victoria Graff photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, WINCHESTER SUN

Larry Warford and Matt Smith gave Joker Phillips a lift in his final home game as coach at Kentucky.

Warford and Smith, members of the senior class, carried Phillips on their shoulders after the Wildcats defeated Samford 34-3 in their home finale Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. It wasn’t not only the last home contest for Phillips, but also for 19 seniors.

Following the contest, Phillips reluctantly jumped on the shoulders of Warford and Smith as he left the stadium as Kentucky’s coach for the last time.

“I really wanted to carry coach Phillips off the field because he deserves everything,” Warford said afterward. “He poured his heart and soul into this program and he’s a champion in our hearts. He means everything to us and to carry him off that field as a champion was the right thing to do for us.”

Smith said Phillips’ exit from the stadium was fitting. It was an idea from fellow senior Taylor Wydham to carry Phillips off the field.

“He has put so much into this program and he’s the reason that I was here,” he said. “For him to be with me for five years. … and to know that he’s going out with me, we just wanted to take him out the right way, even though the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted and he’s done for the season. We wanted to make sure we took him out the right way out of the stadium in his last game at the stadium too. He tried to fight it, but we got him up there (on our shoulders).”

Warford said the plan was to carry Phillips off the field even it was against the will of the coach.

“We were going to force him (to do it),” Warford said with a smile. “He is so important in our hearts and he loves this program so much. He’s bleeds it and he’s a champion.”

Warford also was emotional and found it hard to believe it was the last home game of his career at Kentucky.

“I keep feeling that I have another game,” the Madison Central graduate said. “It’s sad. I love this place, I love Lexington, I love UK and I love this team. It’s really sad.”

Smith said Phillips wanted to win more for the senior class than for selfish reasons.

“He wanted so much for us to win.” Smith said. “Now that it’s happened, and how the locker room was tonight compared to other games, he was just happy for us. That’s the kind of coach you want, one that’s looking out for his players and wants his players to win more than he wants to win. He is such a great guy and he’s always been there for us. I’m glad that we got the win for him also.”

The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak going into Saturday’s regular-season finale at Tennessee. It was a relief for a senior class that has endured two straight losing seasons following a string of five consecutive bowl appearances.

“It feels great and it’s been such a long time,” Warford said. “I can’t say how much appreciate the young guys for going out to practice, having good practices and being willing to go out (and play hard) and it showed up in the game. It means everything to us right now.”

Smith also was glad to close his home playing career with a victory at Commonwealth Stadium.

“It feels great, especially on a day like this with so many emotions running around,” Smith said. “I was really proud of this whole team. We had to him them early and hit them hard and I felt like we did that.”

The result was the end of a losing streak that defined the team’s season and ended Phillips’ three-year career as coach of the Wildcats.

Joker Phillips carried from the field

By LARRY VAUGHT

For the last time in his coaching career, Joker Phillips left the Commonwealth Stadium turf Saturday and this time he had reason to smile because his team won 34-3. However, it was also bittersweet because the win over Samford was only UK’s second of the season and came two weeks after athletics director Mitch Barnhart announced that Phillips would not be back for the final two years on his coaching contract.

If Kentucky had dominated the line of scrimmage more often the way it did this game, perhaps Phillips would still have the job he always considered his dream job. He came to home-state UK as a player from Franklin and spent time at UK as a graduate assistant, position coach, recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting under Rich Brooks.

Still, it was only right that senior linemen Larry Warford and Matt Smith, two players who have never wavered in their support of Phillips, waited patiently for the coach to finish TV and radio interviews and then hoisted him on their shoulders to carry him off the field. It was as classy as what Phillips did when he had freshman quarterback Patrick Towles take a knee at the 1-yard line rather than add another score in the final seconds.

Of course, what else would one expect from Phillips. He’s been classy his whole career, including this testy season, and wasn’t about to change at the end of this game.

That includes downplaying his emotions to try and not take away from his players’ performances.

“I don’t really have any (emotions). Numb to all of this. Understand it. It’s a numb feeling. You realize it is time to go,” said Phillips. “I understand that. Very seldom do you get 10 (straight) years at a place. That 10 years seems a lot longer than that, but it has also been a grind for me.

“I am tired. Ain’t no doubt about that. I did it for 10 years. I am tired also. People ask me what I am going to do. Probably going to sleep.”

Phillips said despite the great experiences like helping UK go to five straight bowl games and beating South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier as well as the win over Tennessee, he understands why 13 wins in almost three seasons forced the decision to let him go.

“We have had great experiences, but it is time to go,” he said.

While it’s hard to overestimate the value of this win, it did give Kentucky three straight Senior Day wins. It also gives UK a chance to do the unthinkable — beat Tennessee for a second straight year.
Kentucky broke a 26-year losing streak to the Vols last year with receiver Matt Roark forced to play quarterback.

Now it will go to Tennessee (4-7) with the Vols in disarray under coach Derek Dooley — who could himself be without a job before that game starts — following a 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt that likely could leave the Vols with far less motivation for this season-ending game than Kentucky will have.

“We really want to win that game,” running back Raymond Sanders, who ran for 123 yards and went over the 1,000-yard career mark, said. “We want to send these seniors out right. We want coach Joker to get another win. We want to finish this strong, and we always want to beat Tennessee.”

There could be some reason for hope going to Knoxville. The Cats rushed for a season-high 342 yards and limited Samford to 102 total yards. Maybe knowing that Phillips’ future had already been decided took pressure off. Maybe they were playing to make sure Phillips did at least get to walk out of Commonwealth Stadium the final time as a winner.

“First, we wanted to win for the seniors, but we did talk about winning for Coach,” Sanders said. “It’s only human nature to want to do that.”

But now Phillips wants the players to win for themselves and salvage something from the season with a second straight win over Tennessee.

“When I came here in 1981, it was a big rival then. It means more to me than maybe somebody in today’s football just getting here,” Phillips said. “It was one of our program goals (to beat Tennessee). It still one of those for me. We made that one of our program goals when I took over. That’s why it is important to me. We want to finish this thing out strong and win last two and give seniors a chance to go out the right way.”

True, but it seems like getting carried off the field was also the right way for Phillips to go out. No, he’s not been

able to elevate the program the way many hoped — or he expected. But he’s been loyal to UK, never had any problems with the NCAA and has never complained about anything from resources to attendance to scheduling.
Sure, he’s made decisions it has been easy to second guess. What coach hasn’t?

However, his passion for Kentucky football is something no one has ever been able to question and that’s why it was nice to see him get to enjoy one final moment on the field where he’s been involved in so many games and special times going all the way back to 1981.

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For IPhones/IPads, and new for Android devices, the Catalist app by Larry Vaught is the best way to keep up with UK basketball. It's free!

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