Former UK running back publishes kids book

Herald-Leader Staff WriterJuly 13, 2013 

He moved piles of hefty Southeastern Conference defenders.

He had to push his way through some of the NFL's best lines.

But ask former Kentucky and professional running back Artose Pinner about his most difficult task to date and he'll tell you it was getting his first children's book written and published.

But that book, Willville, is finished and it will hit store shelves in the next month or two.

"It's difficult to put out a quality book that matches your vision and everything that you want the book to embody," said Pinner, 35. "That's what made it so difficult."

It took the Hopkinsville native nearly five years to get the book out. He went through illustrator after illustrator until he found David Harston, who shared Pinner's vision for the lead character: Will Power.

Pinner hopes Will, who wears a letterman's jacket and eye black, is a cool, hip character. He wants him to resonate with kids (the book is geared toward children ages 4-8) and adults alike.

"We always tell our kids they can be anything they want to be, but we don't always tell them what to do when the obstacles get in the way of what they want to be," Pinner said. "Just because you hit a bump in the road, doesn't mean there isn't a way over it or around it."

He hopes Will gives kids the will to get through adversity.

"When kids start giving up and doubting themselves, I'm hoping they can turn to this character I've created," Pinner said. "He helps them to believe in themselves and continue to pursue their dreams even when things get difficult and kids doubt themselves."

For the past three years, Pinner has been a Will Power of sorts himself, going around Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia as a part of a National Dairy Association Farmers and the NFL program called Play60. He talks to school kids of all ages about the importance of eating healthy and playing an hour or more a day.

Meeting with so many kids from so many backgrounds helped inspire Pinner to create his lead character.

On the website willville.net, which is still in its final stages, fans of Will Power will be able to purchase T-shirts, sweat bands and custom eye black with special messages on it.

Pinner, who has returned to UK this summer to finish up his classes and get his degree, said he's gone to great lengths to make Will Power a reality.

There is just one thing he is unwilling to do ever again: wear the mascot costume.

Pinner made that mistake once before.

"The guy who was supposed to wear the mascot outfit didn't show up and I had to wear it," he said laughing. "I have a whole new respect for the mascot. It's hot in there. I have a fan built into it, but I forgot to charge the battery. That was the worst day ever."

Money matters

When Kentucky released its proposed athletics budget in June, it showed an increase of $3.1 million in the overall football budget, which comes in at $12,587,627 overall.

That got me curious about where and how the new money is going to be spent. An analysis of the budget and discussions with UK officials provided these tidbits:

About $2.3 million of that money goes into salaries, with $1.15 million going toward new head coach Mark Stoops, his coaches and other football support staff as well as their benefits.

The other half of that $2.3 million will go toward paying off contracts of former coaches on Joker Phillips' staff, said spokesman Tony Neely, who confirmed that Phillips' buyout already came in a lump sum. Several staff members have an additional year of contract payments due to them.

These include the three former assistant coaches who have yet to find new employment: special teams coach Greg Nord, running backs coach Steve Pardue and linebackers coach Chuck Smith.

The remaining $800,000 of new cash is spread out within the budget. Highlights of that spending include $160,000 more going toward team travel compared to last season. The recruiting budget got a bump of $125,000 more than the season before. This figure includes travel and visits, Neely said.

Tickets, please

Kentucky already has sold more season tickets (39,469) this season than all of last season (38,475), but the numbers haven't bounced back completely, still down more than 16,000 from the height of season ticket sales in 2009 when the school reported 56,440.

A couple of other ticket-related notes:

 Student tickets go on sale Tuesday at 9 a.m. and are $35 each. The student ticket website has updated info: http://www.ukathletics.com/tickets/student-tickets.html

Regular season tickets are still available for sideline ($277) and end zone ($242) and can be purchased at www.UKathletics.com/tickets, by calling 800-928-2287 or by visiting the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office.

Let the fun begin ...

College football's long slumber officially ends (at least for us media types) this week when the Southeastern Conference's Media Day kicks off in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday at the Wynfrey Hotel.

Kentucky has opted to bring all seniors: linebacker Avery Williamson, running back Raymond Sanders and defensive tackle Donte Rumph.

Along with UK's Mark Stoops, I'm interested to see how the league's three other new coaches (Arkansas' Bret Bielema, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Tennessee's Butch Davis) do in their first trip to the circus.

Other headliners sure to add to the craziness include Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (I wonder if he's excited to get out of College Station for this), Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Save the dates

A little closer to campus, there are a few dates of note coming quickly:

Kentucky's annual women's clinic, but the first one with the new coaching staff, is July 27 at Commonwealth Stadium.

For more information and a link to the online registration system, go to: http://www.ukathletics.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/051013aaa.html. The cost of the clinic is $75 and is designed for women with all levels of football knowledge.

Coaches will give presentations and do question-and-answer sessions.

The annual kickoff luncheon, which generally serves as the start of the silly pre-season, is set for Aug. 2 at noon in the Hyatt Regency's Patterson Ballroom.

The luncheon will include a question-and-answer session with Stoops and usually includes speeches by Cats coordinators. Tickets are $40 each and a table for 10 costs $400. Seating is limited and reservations can be made by emailing Elizabeth Briggs at elizabeth.briggs@uky.edu. The deadline is July 24.

Kentucky's fall camp officially opens on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, when the newcomers are scheduled to report. Camp usually ends the first day of school, which is Aug. 28 this year.

Kentucky's annual Fan Day is scheduled for Aug. 9 at Commonwealth Stadium and will feature an autograph session, an open practice and a fireworks show. Admission and parking are both free.

Posters and schedule cards will be given out at gates 1, 4, 9 and 12 at 5:30 p.m. for an autograph on the main concourse. The autograph session with be completed at 7:15 and open practice will start at 7:30 p.m.

Football for females

In case you needed any additional proof that interest is up in Kentucky football: Nearly 300 more people are registered for this year's women's clinic than attended last year (121) and that number likely will go up before the event on July 27.

UK reported early this week that about 420 women have signed up for the clinic so far this season. Kentucky usually caps the number at 500, so limited space is available still.

At the end of last May, UK had three women registered for the football tutorial with the coaches.

Rankings and analysis

The past few days, ESPN.com released massive lists highlighting the best of each position in the SEC and the top teams at each position. After last season's 2-10 finish for UK, it's not hard to understand that the Cats finished dead last or second-from-last in the league in special teams, secondary, offensive line, wide receiver and running back.

Three UK players were highlighted in the individual segments, including defensive tackle Donte Rumph, ranked the fourth-best defensive tackle in the league with analyst Edward Aschoff saying he "can be very disruptive in both the run and pass game and with the help from new coach Mark Stoops, he should really excel in his final year with the Wildcats."

Junior Alvin "Bud" Dupree was rated the third-best defensive end in the league. Aschoff noted that Dupree has "exceptional speed off the edge and should be even more dangerous with his hand in the ground this fall."

Sophomore Landon Foster was named the second-best punter in the league.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader.Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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