Wesley Woodyard was already in camp with the Denver Broncos by the time Danny Trevathan arrived at Kentucky, but it didn't take long for Trevathan to learn about the Woodyard legend. He heard stories, watched film and eventually developed a relationship with the two-time All-Southeastern Conference linebacker.
Now, after a breakthrough 14-tackle performance in UK's 21-14 win at Auburn, the sophomore is starting to draw comparisons to Woodyard, who is one of the key cogs on a defense that has catapulted the Broncos to a 6-0 start.
Listed at 6-foot-1, Trevathan is Woodyard's height but carries about 15 more pounds than Woodyard did at the same stage. UK Coach Rich Brooks raves about the speed of Trevathan, who returned kickoffs in the Blue-White Spring Game.
"We have never had a linebacker as fast as Danny," Brooks said. "Wesley was close to being as fast, but he wasn't as big as Danny, particularly at his sophomore season."
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Trevathan said he spent some time with Woodyard over the summer.
"It feels great to be compared to a great player like Wesley," Trevathan said. "He really paved the way for linebackers at Kentucky. I really look up to those guys, him, Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams. I just try and go out here and take care of business, do what they taught me and keep this program on the right path."
UK linebackers coach Chuck Smith said the biggest similarity between Trevathan and Woodyard is their work ethic.
"They both love practice," Smith said. "They both bust their butt. Practice is not something they dread; it's something they look forward to."
Trevathan played like a young Woodyard at Auburn and was a big part of the strongest UK defensive effort of the season. While Auburn deployed a version of the spread, it ran mostly a traditional set with two running backs, a tight end and two receivers. That allowed UK to stay in its 4-3 alignment instead of the nickel, which meant more snaps for Trevathan.
"That left Danny to record some stats because he has probably only played a third of the snaps in a lot of the games," Brooks said. "In this game he was spectacular. He made tackles starting from over here (right fist extended outward) all the way over to the far sideline for 2-yard gains. He is very instinctive."
All three UK linebackers had productive games against Auburn. Micah Johnson matched Trevathan's 14 tackles and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. Sam Maxwell added 10 stops. Johnson has a team-leading 52 total tackles, and Trevathan ranks third with 39. Maxwell has 36 tackles with five pass breakups and two interceptions.
"They're really coming along," Smith said of his group. "They really worked hard last week in practice, and they were focused, they concentrated, they were very active and they communicated well with each other. Not surprisingly, they had good results."
Trevathan had surgery on a fractured bone in his right wrist after the Miami (Ohio) game. The cast won't be removed until after the season so Trevathan said he had to learn how to tackle all over again.
"The cast is a part of me now, so I just had to learn how to play with it," he said. "I had to start getting my feet right, reading the ball carrier's every move and just try to wrap around them."
Trevathan knows that Brooks spoke highly of him in the pre-season and, he was relieved to deliver a big game.
"It really showed me that I can succeed in the SEC," Trevathan said. "I know the coaches have been talking good about me, and I haven't been living up to it. I just wanted to go out and show everybody that I could play. I had to show everybody what the talk was all about."
And he hopes one day to follow Woodyard to the NFL.
"I watch NFL games and see Wesley doing stuff that Coach Brooks and Coach Smith taught him. I'd love for some of those same things to happen to me."