UK football

For Kentucky football players, green means don't stop

motto a reminder heading to Tennessee

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 21, 2011 

UK head coach Joker Phillips cheered his team after a second quarter TD during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Georgia football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011 in Athens, Georgia. Photo by David Perry | Staff

DAVID PERRY | STAFF

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

When the final horn sounded on a tough loss at Georgia on Saturday, Kentucky's players were down.

Unlike the five UK teams before it, this team now knew for certain that it would not be heading to a bowl game.

But as running back Raymond Sanders walked out of Sanford Stadium with his head down, he couldn't help but notice a hint of green around his wrist.

"When you want to give up and things on the field aren't going your way, you can look down and it helps you remember," Sanders said, grasping the green wrist band with two simple words:

Never. Never.

"As in never, never give up," he said.

UK's players are wearing them as they forge ahead to play their final game of the season against Tennessee on Saturday. They know they're not playing for a bowl game anymore.

But they say they're still playing for each other, their coaches and the name on the front of their jerseys.

"It means never, never give up on the play," senior cornerback Randall Burden said after the loss. "It means never, never give up on the game. Never, never give up on your teammates and never, never give up on yourself."

At a team meeting last Thursday, Coach Joker Phillips reminded his team to keep working hard.

"He said, through life and everything, to never give up," Sanders said. "That's one thing I'm proud of with my teammates. They kept fighting until the buzzer and the game ended. I'm really proud to be on a team with those guys."

The players said they know that many people questioned their effort and desire after a 30-point loss at Vanderbilt two weeks ago.

They said they hope the effort they put up against one of the Southeastern Conference's best on Saturday showed that they haven't given up.

"People might question our effort because of what Vandy did last week, but I can promise you we work our butts off every day in practice," quarterback Maxwell Smith said. "Our team has a lot of heart, and we have a lot of love for each other."

A question about effort after Saturday's loss caused Phillips to get emotional.

"If you've never competed, you don't understand this thing," Phillips said. "If you've never experienced victory or you've never experienced defeat, you don't understand this. You're talking out of turn if you've never competed once. This team does not quit."

Notes

■ Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith, who sprained his right shoulder in the Georgia loss, is listed as day-to-day. Phillips said that if the Tennessee game had been on Sunday, Smith wouldn't have been able to play.

■ When asked whether he feels any pressure going into this last game, Phillips said simply: "No, no I don't."

"I'm going about this as, we're playing for pride and pride for the university, and I don't feel any pressure myself."

■ On Sunday, the head coach also discussed how important ending the season on a positive note is:

"Just getting a win at the end of the season and going into the off-season with a win would be really big for this program."

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