Running backs coach Steve Pardue successfully coached high school football in Georgia for more than two decades before joining Kentucky's staff in December. The former LaGrange coach won 161 games and three state championships there. Many of his former stars have been impact players at schools across the country, including many at UK. Former Grangers on the Cats' current roster include starting defenders Mychal Bailey and Randall Burden, defensive lineman Tristian Johnson, and kickers Joe Mansour and Patrick Simmons.
The Hopkinsville native talked about going "home" again to Georgia, making the transition to the college level and whether he's a Bulldogs fan:
Question: Is this a home game for you?
Answer: Everybody in Georgia says Kentucky's my home and everybody in Kentucky says Georgia's my home. ... I do probably consider (the state of Georgia) home a little bit. All of our friends live there. My daughter (Morgan) still lives there. I'm excited.
Q: What have been the biggest differences for you between coaching at the high school level and coaching at the college level?
A: For me the biggest thing is the difference between being a head coach and an assistant coach. I was a head coach for the last 17 years. Then you didn't ever wonder what was going on because you made all the plans. Here, I have to wait until (Coach Joker Phillips) tells us what we're doing. ... That's been a little adjustment but I've really enjoyed it. ... On the field, it's all still football.
Q: Do you ever get tired of focusing on just one thing, specifically coaching running backs? As a head coach, you get to look at the big-picture stuff so much more.
A: That's a big difference also. It used to be I'd be thinking about the defense, the offense, the special teams. Now I really do just the offense, the running backs. But you throw recruiting in there and that takes on a whole life of its own. Trying to learn how to balance that right now was an adjustment for me personally.
Q: Why Kentucky? You had other offers to coach other places over the years.
A: I'm from Kentucky. I'm from Hopkinsville and grew up a Kentucky fan. Really I never wanted to be a college coach. Since I was little, I wanted to coach high school football. So really, I lived my dream for 26 years. There are two reasons I came here. One, the University of Kentucky and two, Joker Phillips. He and I became really good friends about 20 years ago. If he was coaching somewhere else, I don't know if I'd gone or if someone else was coaching here, I don't know if I'd have gone. ... I was at a point where I felt like I needed a change. I'd been doing that job for 26 years. I don't want to say I mastered it or anything, but I needed a new challenge. This job came at the right time.
Q: The University of Georgia is very big in Georgia. Since you lived there for so long were you ever a Georgia fan?
A: I was for four years when one of my very good players, Bruce Thornton, played there. Honestly, I had so many players play in college, I became a fan of all the teams.
Q: What are a few things that you think make a great running back?
A: No. 1 is God. At this level, you have to have the God-given talent. You've got to have great vision; you've got to be tough and obviously speed's a real big deal, and balance. There are so many things that go into it. You can't really just pinpoint one. In this league, the bigger and stronger you can be, the more you'll hold up.