A chance meeting with a country music artist landed Coach Joker Phillips in a music video this summer.
After his post-scrimmage news conference on Saturday, the UK coach introduced the media to friend and recording artist J.D. Shelburne.
Phillips then proceeded to do a "mock" interview with Shelburne as the media looked on. The Taylorsville native said he met Phillips at the pre-Derby Barnstable Brown party and they hit it off.
They hit it off so much that Phillips makes a cameo playing bass guitar in the music video for Shelburne's single Farmboy.
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While at the Derby party, Shelburne was pulled up on stage by Eddie Montgomery. Shelburne, a 2007 Kentucky graduate, saw Phillips in a corner and got the coach up on stage for a rendition of the Steve Miller Band's The Joker.
"I'm a huge Cats fan," Shelburne said, noting that the football coach can sing, too. "We hit it off and once we got off stage, we exchanged numbers and he's taken me under his wing ever since. It's been awesome."
UK media relations types were mum about whether or not the coach, who is in a white T-shirt, jeans and sunglasses throughout the video, can actually play the bass.
The video was filmed at Shelburne's grandparents' farm in late July, UK spokeswoman Susan Lax said.
"It had to be the hottest day of the year," she said. "It was 113 degrees and he was out there trying to help (Shelburne) out because he said he would."
Shelburne and his entourage were special guests at Saturday's scrimmage.
Saturday's mock scrimmage wasn't as light-hearted as Phillips' pretend interview with Shelburne.
The coach discussed how the intensity goes up several notches in the week leading up to a game.
"Game week is a lot more intense and a lot of them saw it today," Phillips said. "I went in the locker room and sent each group out individually. Why? I want to make sure each group is right on game day. It's a lot more intense and it will get even more intense as we go."
Near the end of his media session, Phillips pulled a script out of his back pocket.
It was 111 plays with offense in blue, defense in white and special teams in yellow. The coaches hope those sheets of paper help prepare the players for anything that can, will and does happen during the course of a game. They went over all of that in a two-plus hour mock scrimmage.
"Every year you come up with different things, things that come up in your career and you think, 'Hey, we need to practice this.'" Phillips explained.
■ In the coaches' box for Kentucky this season will be wide receivers coach Pat Washington and special teams/tight ends coach Greg Nord (offense) and defensive backs coach Mike Cassity as well as some graduate assistants (defense), Phillips added.
A 'full-grown man'
When it was announced to the team that redshirt freshman Marcus Caffey was academically ineligible for this season, the first person to seek out the cornerback was junior Mister Cobble.
The defensive tackle had a similar story, missing his own redshirt freshman season with academic woes. Cobble reached out to Caffey to tell him it wasn't the end of the world.
He had some advice for Caffey (and likely also recently for tight end Anthony Kendrick, who will sit out this season with the same issue).
"Don't just sit around and get mad and sad over it, try to be proactive," Cobble said he told Caffey.
Moping over a missed season of opportunity means missing out on a potential opportunity for growth, Cobble explained.
"Take it as another year to sit around and get stronger and learn the playbook," Cobble said. "You have weekends off, you sit at home and you study the playbook. You have more time to exercise. You do things that help you progress even though you're out."
Being sidelined is a chance for personal growth, too, Cobble reiterated last week.
"Take it as a way of saying, 'OK, you've got to step it up. It's time. It's time to grow up,'" he said he told Caffey.
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter has seen a much more mature Cobble since his academic issues early in his career.
He's "a full-grown man" now, Minter said when asked about the emotional evolution of Cobble, who had 33 tackles last season. "He's come a long way.
"He's come so far emotionally and mentally," Minter said. "There's a true example of a kid who learned from the ills of his past."
Minter said Cobble is playing like a "true leader right now for us."
A big impact?
You may not see offensive tackle John Gruenschlaeger get on the field for Kentucky this season, but he's had a big impact.
The 6-foot-11, 339-pound redshirt freshman from Fort Thomas stands out in a crowd of big men.
"He's a large man," said senior center Matt Smith, no slouch himself at 6-4, 296, when asked about the tackle this summer. "He's 7 feet tall and he makes me feel like I'm 5 feet. He comes into the room and I have to look up to him. I've never had to do that with anybody."
The first time defensive end Collins Ukwu (6-5, 258 pounds) saw Gruenschlaeger, he had one thought: "I was like, 'You should be playing basketball right now, plain and simple.' But he loves football and he's a cool guy. I'm glad he's around our team."
Gruenschlaeger isn't just a big guy. He has a big personality, too, his coaches and teammates said.
"Big Jack," Phillips said when asked if he could pronounce the player's last name. "We call him Big Jack, and Rock (Oliver, strength coach) calls him Sunset. Because it's like sunset. He blocks the sun."
The player, who starred on the line at Newport Central Catholic, is fun to have around, Smith said.
"It's funny because we'll be in the locker room messing around, bumping into each other and he comes in there and starts tackling people and we're like, 'Jack, no, you've got to stop. You're too big for this,'" Smith said. "Usually we're the ones too big for stuff. He's a goofy kid. He's a great guy and friends with everybody. We love having him around."
The walk-on tackle might not play in a game this season, but don't rule him out yet. He's lost about 50 pounds since arriving on campus last season and has improved dramatically.
"He's been working hard on his technique and his quickness," Smith said. "If he keeps improving in a year or two he could be out there helping."
Phillips likes the player's work ethic.
"He's a guy that continues to get himself better," Phillips said this summer. "If he can continue to improve as much as he did in the first year, he'll have an opportunity to help us in some aspect."
Alumni tailgate event
There will be a pre-Louisville game tailgate gathering for alumni and friends on Sept. 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Churchill Downs, UK announced.
In parking lots six and seven (outside gate 17), there will be a catered lunch, and the UK band and cheerleaders will make a special appearance. Admission is $5 for students, $10 for UK Alumni Association members and $15 for non-members.
For more information, go to www.ukalumni.net/tailgate2012.