It's been a rough couple of weeks for Matt Smith.
After it was announced that Kentucky's coaching staff would not be retained next season, the senior center was especially emotional.
"When you've been a part of something and dedicated so much of your time to something like this, spend every day with these guys, sometimes all day, it's tough to know that they're going to be gone after the end of the season and that the times you had are just memories now," he told the media last week.
Smith and UK got some rare good news Wednesday when it was announced that he was one of eight national finalists for the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, which honors a player for his work on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
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"It's a huge honor just because it's an award that's for a player who performs well on the field, and in the classroom and in the community," the three-year starter said. "That's exactly what Coach Phillips' whole thing about this program is. It's those three things."
Smith, a two-year member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, carries a 3.29 grade-point average in community leadership and development.
He will be honored Saturday along with 18 others for Senior Day at Commonwealth Stadium.
The former Louisville St. Xavier standout has logged more than 200 community services hours, including 100 hours as a summer camp volunteer for the Salvation Army summer camp.
With fellow seniors Larry Warford and Mikie Benton, Smith also went on a service trip to Ethiopia this summer. He's also worked for Read Across America and visited Veteran's Hospitals around the state.
"It's always good to be recognized for the work you do, but that's not one of the reasons I did these things," said Smith, who has previously said he'd like to go into coaching. "I know when I was that age, that I was always looking up to the football players here at Kentucky and watching what they were doing. So I was just trying to make sure that I could set that good example for those kids."
Kentucky offensive line coach Mike Summers said he couldn't imagine a better example for young kids around the state.
"I have so much for respect for him as a man," Summers said in a UK release. "Without exception, Matt has always demonstrated character, above normal character, that is unshakeable. He chooses to do the right thing in every situation and because of that has earned my respect maybe above any player I have coached."
The Danny Wuerffel Trophy will be announced on Dec. 4. Barrett Jones of Alabama received the honor last season.
Lowery out for the season
Sophomore safety Ashely Lowery will miss the final two games of the season with a broken middle finger. Phillips reported that Lowery broke the finger in several places and will have surgery on Friday. The UK coach said doctors think playing will compromise Lowery's healing process.
Lowery already missed three games this season after suffering a concussion at Florida.
Players still working hard
On both the Southeastern Conference teleconference this week and in meetings with the media, Phillips has said that even though his team doesn't have bowl games to play for, they're still competing hard in practice.
"A lot of our goals have been out of the picture for a few weeks, but the one goal of trying to send these seniors out here on a winning note at Commonwealth is still here and that's what the team is practicing and fighting for," he said on the weekly teleconference.
He echoed that after Wednesday's practice.
"We like coming to practice, coming to work because of the type of kids we have," Phillips said. "That's the only reason I'm (still coaching the final two games) because of the kids. If I thought we had kids that wouldn't respond, then I would have walked away two weeks ago. The kids here are good kids, still working hard, listening, trying to get themselves better."