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By LARRY VAUGHT
Donte Rumph doesnâ€™t want to go into the season thinking he has to be â€œthe manâ€ on Kentuckyâ€™s defensive front even if defensive line coach David Turner wants the junior tackle to fill that role.
â€œI just try to focus on doing my job and getting better,â€ said Rumph, a junior who made 31 tackles in 11 games in 2011. â€œI donâ€™t focus much on the one-man role. I just try to focus on my role as a teammate and part of the brotherhood on this team. I try to lead by example on and off the field. I am just trying to do what I am told by the coaches and what they expect of me.â€
Rumph was an all-state high school player in South Carolina who originally signed with UKâ€ˆin 2008 but did not arrive on campus until 2010 because of academic issues. He went to Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for two years, got to UK only a few weeks before the 2010 season opened and had 12 tackles in 12 games his freshman year.
â€œI have changed since Iâ€ˆgot here,â€ the 315-pound Rumph said. â€œIâ€ˆam opening up more. I like being on campus more and just knowing more people. I am trying to introduce younger guys to the Cats family. I am trying to play that role and it feels great.
â€œBut I should be a better player this year. I agree with coach Turner on that. Every year you better strive to be better than the last year. I am trying to practice with that mindset that we can only move in a positive direction.â€
Kentucky is coming off a 5-7 season that did end with a win over Tennessee. The Wildcats open the season Sept. 2 at Louisville, a team that beat UKâ€ˆlast year.
â€œI am doing a lot of little things on the field to try to get better and prepared for Louisville,â€ Rumph said. â€œDuring the winter, I really tried to work on getting in better shape, getting stronger and becoming more explosive. I am trying to be a more well rounded player.
â€œI love my guys on the D-line. We are going to come in here and work hard every day to get ready for Louisville. As a defensive line, everybody has pretty much stepped up his play. I really canâ€™t point out just one person that has got better. Everybody has been getting better and making improvements. Itâ€™s not just one person doing that, but a whole unit thing and thatâ€™s a good thing.â€
Rumph is taking his role as a veteran player seriously and is anxious to help incoming freshmen adjust to college life when they arrive on campus in June.
â€œAccording to everybody else, Iâ€ˆhave always been the older guy,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a privilege to be in the SEC and be a veteran and playing in the toughest conference in the country. Itâ€™s a blessing. I am just trying to set examples for the younger guys because I have been in their spots. I have been where they have been. Just everything is overwhelming.
â€œI am here to try and help make everything easier for them from college life to football to just getting around campus when the new guys get here. Any way I can help,â€ˆI will be that big brother to them because if they can come in and help our football team right away, great. That just makes us better and thatâ€™s what matters.â€