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By ASHLEY SCOBY
If you asked Patrick Towles, he would say he’s the baddest man on the planet. At least, that’s the mindset that he takes into his football career, regardless of whether or not he will later be named the starting quarterback of Kentucky’s 2013 team.
“To be a quarterback, you need to have the mindset that you’re the baddest person on the face of the earth or else you’re not going to win any games,” he said. “You have to develop that kind of mojo that everybody’s out to get to you but that it doesn’t even matter. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to beat them, and you’re going to beat them bad.”
Towles is, of course, in a three-man race to be the starting quarterback, competing against Jalen Whitlow and Max Smith. He will be the first to admit that he was not the best out of those three in the spring game. Traditionally, Towles says, he has not performed up to par in spring practice.
In the spring game, Towles was 6-for-14 for 65 yards, a touchdown and an interception. For comparison, Whitlow was 17-for-28 for 193 yards and two touchdowns, while Smith was 11-for-18 for 108 yards and one touchdown.
That performance, however, taught Towles what he needed to fix, and that’s exactly what he set out to do this summer. Working on his lower body mechanics was high on the list. But simply getting in better shape also was a priority. Towels has lost “15 or 16 pounds” thanks to Erik Korem’s high performance program.
“If you build a new program, you have to start from the bottom up. You’ve got to develop that foundation and I think the high performance program is that foundation,” Towles said. “Coach Korem has said we should be the most fit team in the SEC. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the best fitness because it doesn’t take talent to be in good shape.”
Being in great shape is only part of the equation to being a starting quarterback in the SEC. Another part is mental – striking out the complacency that affects any athlete who has succeeded at a high level, as Towles did in high school. He won three straight state championships as the starter for Highlands High School and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky after his senior season.
But none of that is on his mind as he battles for position in Lexington.
“The true competitors – the Peyton Mannings, the Tom Bradys – they have minimal complacency, if any,” he said. “As a true competitor, you’ve got to always have that constant drive to get better and never be satisfied or else you’re going to eventually get passed up.”
Even with that mindset, was Towles expecting to be in a three-man quarterback race once he came to Kentucky, or did he bank on being the starter?
“You always want to assume the best is going to happen,” he said. “When the best doesn’t happen, you’ve got to adapt to that. I think I came in and there was a little adversity, but you’ve got to get through that and you’ve got to get back to what has made you successful … You’ve got to go back to the ground up and just put your head down and work hard because that’s eventually going to take you somewhere.”
That hard work has been evident by Towles’ changed physique, but results on the practice field will show Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown who deserves the job. If, in fact, it turns out to be Whitlow or Smith, running UK’s first series against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31, Towles says he hopes to be the “greatest backup quarterback to ever play the game.”
Until that decision is made, it’s just time to finally get on the practice field and do work.
“I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m ready to go,” Towles said. “There’s a lot of talk … but I’m just ready to get back to playing football.”