A year ago, Curtis Pulley came to Commonwealth Stadium as a fan and watched Kentucky play South Carolina.
"It was kind of weird being back in that stadium," Pulley said.
Had the grand plan for Kentucky football gone according to script, Pulley would not have been in the Commonwealth stands last Oct. 11.
He would have been on the C.M. Newton Field as UK's starting quarterback.
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If things had gone according to design, Pulley would in 2009 be in his second year as Kentucky's signal caller instead of burning up the Football Championship Subdivision as a dual-threat QB at Florida A&M.
As Kentucky football fans know too well, not much went according to plan with Pulley at UK.
"You never want to have to live with regrets," Pulley said, via phone, after a Florida A&M football practice last week. "I made some mistakes, didn't handle some things as well as I could have at Kentucky, and it cost me."
The commonwealth's 2004 Mr. Football at Hopkinsville High School, Pulley lost the starting quarterback job at Kentucky during the summer in two different years due to a lack of personal accountability.
After exiting spring practice 2006 ahead of incumbent starter Andre Woodson on the UK depth chart, Pulley was outworked by Woodson over the summer and beaten out in the fall.
Woodson spent the next two years becoming one of the best QBs in Kentucky history; a disappointed Pulley developed grade trouble and had to sit out the 2007 season.
Still, once Woodson departed, Pulley had two years of eligibility left and loomed as the heir apparent.
Then the summer bit him again. Shortly before fall practice began in 2008, it emerged that Pulley had been cited for marijuana possession in Louisville that June. It was also reported that he had been pulled over for speeding in a separate incident in Hardin County.
Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks announced that Pulley would be punished, but still allowed to compete with Mike Hartline for the quarterback job. Then, at UK's 2008 media day, Brooks said further information had come to light and Pulley was getting the disciplinary boot.
The guy whose combination of size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and athleticism (4.6 40-yard dash) had long fired the imagination of Kentucky coaches saw his UK career end without ever giving himself a chance to play full time.
"You've got to handle things the right way in public," Pulley said of the lesson he's taken from his Kentucky travails. "If you don't, you can lose everything you have just like that."
Showing he can throw
While UK's quarterbacking has been erratic this fall, Pulley is playing, albeit at a lower level of college football, the way Kentucky always envisioned that he could.
To the surprise of no one, the senior QB is averaging 6.2 yards every time he runs the ball.
What is unexpected for a guy whose passing skills were always questioned is that Pulley has completed 66.7 percent of his passes (64-for-96) through four games. He has thrown for 846 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception.
"That was the biggest thing I worked on this summer, being a better passer," Pulley said. "That's something people have always questioned. I worked really hard on my mechanics and my footwork. I've gotten a lot better."
Florida A&M Coach Joe Taylor said Pulley is benefitting from a spring practice regimen in which the Rattlers' coaches refused to allow him to use his legs to make plays.
"We had him sit in the pocket, read rotations, look off the safeties and make all his plays through the air," Taylor said. "That's paying off for him this season."
Behind Pulley and kick returner extraordinaire LeRoy Vann (four punt return TDs this season), No. 24 Florida A&M is ranked in the FCS Top 25 for the first time since 2001.
The Rattlers get a chance to test themselves against a college football big boy Saturday when they visit the Miami Hurricanes.
"We're excited," Pulley said. "It's a big chance for us to show what we can do."
For Pulley, it means a quarterback matchup with Miami's Jacory Harris, one of the break-out stars of college football in 2009. If Pulley is going to catch the eyes of NFL scouts, this weekend would be a good time to do it.
Longtime NFL draft analyst Jerry Jones says he does not have Pulley being drafted. But Jones says the growing popularity of the Wildcat formation could create a chance for him.
"With his athleticism, if a team had a roster slot for a 'Wildcat quarterback' that could be his opportunity," Jones said. "With his speed, he could be a contender for a conversion to another position."
Taylor says the pro scouts used to view Pulley strictly as an athlete. "But, with the way he's thrown it this year, they're starting to ask about him as a quarterback," the Florida A&M coach said.
When asked about Pulley's off-the-field accountability, the report from Taylor bears no resemblance to what the book was on the quarterback here in Lexington.
"We haven't had one problem with him," Taylor said. "Not one issue socially. He had a 3.2 GPA last semester. He's been a leader of this football team. I'm so proud of him for they way he's handled himself."
You can forgive UK fans if, hearing that, it literally gives them a physical pain wondering why Pulley couldn't have gotten to that point here.
The Florida A&M quarterback says, yes, he follows the scores of the Kentucky team that, had his actions been different, he could now be quarterbacking.
"Micah (Johnson), Sam Maxwell, Winston (Guy), I'm still close, I talk to them," Pulley said. "I have no hard feelings toward Kentucky. I want them to do well."