Mark Story: Kentucky's Lowery ready for leap to college

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 8, 2011 

Ashely Lowery (5), a freshman safety from Cleveland, Ga., has a chance to play right away for Coach Joker Phillips this season.


  • Kentucky at Louisville

    When: Noon Saturday

    TV: ESPN2

    Records: Louisville 8-3 (5-3 ACC); Kentucky 5-6 (2-6 SEC)

    Series: Kentucky leads 14-12

    Line: Louisville by 12½

Joker Phillips' 2011 recruiting class includes the No. 1-ranked player from Illinois, the two highest-rated offensive linemen from Kentucky and four of the top 50 prospects in the state of Georgia.

It also features one YouTube sensation.

Even if Ashely Lowery, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound defensive back from Cleveland, Ga., becomes an All-American at Kentucky, he'll have a hard time ever topping the wow factor from the high school play in which he went all Renaldo Nehemiah on a standing defender.

As you read this, almost 1 million viewers have watched "The Lowery Leap" on YouTube.

Kentucky Recruit Ashely Lowery Hurdles Defender - Watch more Sports

"It's been pretty cool," Lowery, the UK freshman safety, says of his Internet fame. "I don't even know how it happened, to be honest, it was just something that happened in a split second."

Let's travel back in time to Friday night, Sept. 10, 2010.

Lowery's White County High School Warriors were facing West Hall. White County had the ball and was lined up in the shotgun formation. Of the two running backs in the backfield with White County quarterback Cole Seagraves, Lowery was on the right side of the QB.

The play was designed to go to the left side of the field. However, the shotgun snap to the quarterback was high and the ball went to the turf.

Lowery picked it up and ran against the flow of the play back to his right.

"It was a busted play," Lowery recalled Friday at UK football media day. "The defender came around the edge and he slipped up or something. I figured everybody went the way the play was supposed to go, so I cut back the other way."

In the video on YouTube, you see Lowery pointing for a White County receiver to try to block West Hall's No. 22, Jacob Scarborough.

"I was pointing at him to get him blocked, but the receiver blocked a defensive lineman," Lowery said.

So Lowery leaped over the standing defender like a track-and-field star going over a high hurdle. He came down on his feet and scampered into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.

The Lowery Leap.

"I don't know what to say about it," Lowery said. "It was just one of those things that happened, adrenaline took over."

As it turned out, leaping over a standing defender in a single bound is illegal in Georgia high school football.

The touchdown that resulted from Lowery's hurdle was called back.

In a sense, it didn't matter. Lowery still wound up with 118 yards rushing and three TDs in a 45-18 White County win.

Meanwhile, the video footage from his leaping touchdown that didn't count was so dramatic, it wound up on ESPN's SportsCenter.

"That was more amazing than the jump to me," Lowery says. "Being in high school and seeing myself on ESPN in my own little spotlight with the top plays, that was big to me."

After the play went viral on YouTube, it became the player's digital calling card.

On the day Lowery inked his scholarship papers with UK, they had a cake at his signing ceremony in which The Leap was depicted on the icing.

"They made T-shirts," Lowery says. "A bunch of people bought T-shirts."

UK hopes the athleticism and quick-thinking that made The Lowery Leap happen will translate into making Lowery a winning SEC safety.

There is opportunity at the position.

With strong safety Winston Guy moving to linebacker, with promising Dakotah Tyler not enrolled in school for the fall semester and with free safety Mychal Bailey suspended for the season's first game, true freshman safeties Lowery and Glenn Faulkner (the top-rated prospect last season in Illinois) have a viable chance to play right away.

Says Lowery: "I'd like that. But I've got to work hard, figure everything out, get in the groove. Then we'll see."

What if some Olympic hurdler-caliber Southeastern Conference wide receiver comes at Lowery and tries to bound over the top of him?

"If somebody ever tried that at me," Lowery says. "I'd just take their legs out."

UK's incoming YouTube sensation says he does not necessarily dream about intercepting a pass and unleashing a (legal) version of The Lowery Leap in Commonwealth Stadium.

"If I get an interception, I'm just trying to take it to the house, man," says Lowery. "I don't care how I get there."

After all, Ashely Lowery has already made his 'leap of fame.'

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