Cats leave summer fun behind

ccosby@herald-leader.comAugust 7, 2009 

  • FAN DAY

    Where: Commonwealth Stadium (event will move into Nutter Field House if weather is inclement)

    When: Saturday; gates open at 6:30 p.m., when posters and schedules will be given away; coach and team introductions at 7:15; autograph session 7:30 to 9; event concludes with fireworks at dusk.

    Free stuff: The first 2,000 fans who bring a new school supply will receive a coupon for a free hot dog and Coke. All school supplies collected will be donated to children in need.

    Try it on: Fans will be able to try on UK helmets and shoulder pads. UK athletic trainers will also demonstrate ankle taping and other activities.

Party time is officially over for the University of Kentucky football team.

The players reported for fall camp Thursday, and for the next two weeks, there will be no more cushy off-campus apartments, nightclubs, fast food, car keys or co-eds.

Instead, they will bunk up in the Kirwan I complex, plush with small rooms and beds and the finest in on-campus dining.

When asked about the accommodations, junior Ricky Lumpkin simply said, "It sucks."

Senior Corey Peters echoed the same sentiment.

"It's a pain, because even as freshmen we live in better dorms than the ones we're staying in right now," Peters said. "But it's only a couple of weeks; we'll make it. I think it helps bring us together as a team."

As for the beds?

"It's terrible; especially for the bigger guys," Peters said. "But if things come to worst, you end up on the floor."

Lumpkin said he tried to get all of his vices out of the way before reporting, including one last stop at Burger King.

"After we give those (car) keys up, you won't be going anywhere, so I'm trying to enjoy everything beforehand, and I got all my little stuff out of the way," he said. "Now I'm just walking around bored trying to find stuff to do."

When asked if there were any vices other than Burger King that he tried to squeeze in at the last minute, Lumpkin paused, smiled coyly and said, "Nahhhh."

Dining out and country-club style living aren't supposed to be the focal point of fall camp. Coach Rich Brooks' Wildcats are going into bunker mentality to get ready for the Sept. 5 season opener with Miami University at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium. The Wildcats will have their first official team practice on Friday following Media Day festivities.

Lumpkin knows one thing: He's going to try and avoid Brooks, who can be notoriously grumpy at different points of fall camp.

"He scares me," Lumpkin said. "When I see him, I turn the opposite way and walk off. I try and avoid him at all costs. He's a good guy, but he holds my scholarship. He'll walk around (practice) and have that look with the glasses on. Next thing you know you see him walk across the field and you're like, 'Please, don't come over here.' Then if you mess up, 'What are you doing?' He's just an intimidating guy to me."

Lumpkin recalls his first camp when he was a wide-eyed freshman rooming with star receiver Keenan Burton. ("I was like, 'Hey, I'm rooming with Keenan Burton," Lumpkin said.) Now he's excited for the chance to serve as a mentor to incoming freshman Myron Walker, who'll be his roommate this year.

"I'm looking forward to getting a lot of questions and working with the young guys and getting them ready for camp," he said. "We keep telling them it's going to be completely different. Everything's going to be faster. The coaches are going to be on you. You don't understand it yet, but you'll understand it soon. You just try and let them know that this is not the Big East, ACC, Pac 10. This is the SEC. There are some big boys out there. If you don't know what you're doing, you'll be embarrassed on national television."

Quarterback Morgan Newton was one of the newcomers who reported, although Newton is certainly no stranger to the Nutter Training Facility. He was a frequent visitor during December's Liberty Bowl practices, a regular during spring practice and also enrolled in summer school in June.

"Things are still a little fuzzy," Newton said. "There are a lot of guys that have been here four or five years and know a lot more than what I know. But I've had a pretty good head start, I think. At least that's what the coaches tell me, on the playbook and stuff like that. So I hope it works out to my advantage."

Another freshman, linebacker Qua Huzzie, is the latest in a growing line of Wildcats from the powerhouse LaGrange High School (Ga.) program. Huzzie left as his school's all-time leading tackler, passing former UK standouts Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley.

"It really started the summer of my eighth-grade year," Huzzie said of his development. "I started lifting with Wes. He told me, 'Keep on, and you'll do something.' I told him, 'I'm going to beat ya'll anyway.' They just kept motivating me."

Several players showed up looking significantly bigger, including sophomore safety Matt Lentz. Lentz has bulked up to 225 pounds and had a significant jump in all his weight room numbers: His bench press went from 320 to 340, his squat from 465 to 520, and his power clean from 305 to 330.

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