A pond bonds Kentucky's offensive line

Fishing trip helps bond UK blockers

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 10, 2011 

The tie that binds Kentucky's line may turn out to be fishing line.

If the UK offense hopes to be as productive as the coaches believe it can be this season, a lot will rest on the shoulders of the offensive line.

"The offense goes as we go," senior guard Stuart Hines explained. "If we're not up there making blocks, the running game isn't going to get going. If we're not up there protecting Morgan (Newton), then we're not getting the passing game going."

Knowing how important it is for his line to become a cohesive unit by the first game of the season, offensive line coach Mike Summers decided to take his players on a little fishing trip.

"One of the critical factors in the development of any offensive line is their unity," he explained. "And the respect that they have for me and I have for them. We spend a lot of time outside of football trying to develop that relationship."

So Summers took his linemen to a friend's farm outside Lexington and they spent the day getting to know one another better.

Summers hopes the trip builds a better line and a stronger bond with the offensive line coach.

"When I demand something of them on the field, my interest is to make them a better football player, not just me being a grouchy old man," he said.

Summers gives each of his linemen a fishing pole, a hook and a line.

He teaches them how to tie a knot, bait their hook and then how to catch a fish.

For some players, it might be the first time they ever catch a fish. It was for Teven Eatmon-Nared, who reeled in a smallish blue gill.

Summers snapped a picture of his husky 6-foot-7, 332-pound redshirt freshman with his prize catch. The coach keeps the photo on his phone and smiles widely when he shows it off.

"That could have been the biggest fish anyone had ever caught in their life because he was so happy," he said.

"It could have been a 98-pound Tarpon. Now, it wasn't a 98-pound Tarpon, but ..."

But that didn't matter to anyone, especially Summers.

"This is the best part of coaching for me," he said. "By the end of the night, we all feel like we know each other a lot better."

'We're a family'

The Kentucky offensive line has four of its five starters back as well as others who played significant minutes.

With the departure of top weapons like Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline, the line is the only proven part of the UK offense right now.

"When you lose the production we lost in the skill positions, it really helps when you've got the experience of the offensive line," Coach Joker Phillips said.

He applauded Summers and the coach's "unbelievable job of making sure that those guys are together."

And much of that unity starts with a fishing trip.

That trip teaches a valuable lesson, junior guard Larry Warford said.

"We're a family. We can count on each other," he said. "We can hang out and it's more than just football. It becomes brotherhood."

As brothers, they push each other to get better.

And it's not just on the shores of a pond.

This summer they got together three or four times a week to do drills as a unit.

When the entire team ran together, the lineman would do that and then stay afterward to run some more.

"We always want to do more work than anyone else," tackle Billy Joe Murphy said. "That's our goal to get there first and be the last to leave, so we did a lot of extra stuff in summer workouts."

It's all a part of building a cohesive unit.

"We have to work together and become one player basically," Warford explained. "We have to know exactly what each other is thinking all the time."

Summers said he's pleased with the work his group put in over the summer.

"I'm so encouraged by the commitment that they've made to be a good offensive line," the coach said. "How talented they are, I'm not sure, but they are very committed to being the strength of this football team."

But not even this group can always be unified.

Not when it comes to fish tales.

When asked who caught the most fish, Hines grinned.

"It's hard to say who caught the most," said the senior, who claimed to reel in five or six large-mouth bass.

Well that's a whale of a tale, Warford said a few minutes later, saying he caught eight bass.

"He's lying," Warford said of Hines. "I was the best for sure."

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