Jojo Kemp was so tired, so spent, that he barely remembered being carried off the field like a rag doll.
"I was just gassed, walking down, and I just felt somebody — I just felt like God picked me up and carried me to the sideline," the sophomore running back said a few days after his 17 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns helped Kentucky shock South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium last season.
In some ways, it was like Kemp was carried into an equipment closet and left there for the rest of the season.
Over UK's next seven games, the running back had just 20 carries for 37 yards. No more touchdowns. No more anything.
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He struggled to explain his absence.
"I don't really know how to put it, but I have no idea," Kemp said Wednesday. "They put guys out there that they thought were better for the play, the formation, the positions we were in at times of the game."
Kemp tried to be the best cheerleader on the Kentucky sideline, to help the players that were playing in front of him.
When the season ended, Kemp's phone rang more than a few times. Several callers suggested that maybe his talents could be put to better use elsewhere.
"Of course I got phone calls from different people — you know I can't go into that, though — I got phone calls from different people and a lot of people were putting that in my head," Kemp said Wednesday when asked if he ever pondered parting ways with Kentucky.
For the record, he never did.
"To me thinking about leaving at that point in time was almost like giving up on my teammates," he said. "That's not right. That's selfish in my eyes."
So Kemp, who led Kentucky in rushing his true freshman season with 100 carries for 482 yards and three touchdowns, went to work instead.
"Basically, I just wanted to work and reclaim my spot," Kemp said. "I want to outwork everybody. I want to do everything it takes."
He played at about 190 pounds last season and is up to 204 pounds now.
"I'm 100 percent healthier, heavier and faster," Kemp said.
Part of getting healthier was learning to trust his surgically repaired ankles. After his big freshman season, he had bone spurs removed from both ankles.
And even though they felt better most of the time, there seemed to be a mental block where they were concerned, running backs coach Chad Scott said.
"He's got to trust his ankles," Scott said in February. "It was a trust factor, not wanting to cut the way he used to cut out of fear that he'd reinjure his ankles. So the biggest thing is to just trust the ankles.
"Until he's able to get over that mental hump, he won't be able to get back to where he was."
Scott reminded Kemp of exactly where he was by showing the running back video from his freshman season, when he was more than just a Wildcat package back.
He was explosive. He was powerful.
"I thought about it too much, hesitated making my cuts," Kemp conceded.
Jojo had lost his mojo.
The running back decided the best place to find it again was in the weight room and on the practice field.
While other players went home to hang out with friends or went to the beach for spring break last week, Kemp stayed in Lexington and trained.
UK strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond worked with Kemp on his flexibility, his movements, his power.
"I put a lot of force on my ankles, psyching myself up, showing myself that nothing is wrong," he said
The soon-to-be junior is doing what he can to show his coaches that he belongs back at the top of the depth chart when spring practice ends.
"He's been very good," Coach Mark Stoops said recently. "He brings a toughness and an energy that you need and so he has worked his way back in the mix and he will continue to do that."
Kemp doesn't want his progress to be measured in a single game or a single offensive formation, either.
"It's about being consistent through a season, not one game, not two games, not one half of the season," Kemp said. "I want to do it for an entire season. I want to get my team to a bowl game, get my team to an SEC championship, whatever it takes to just win."