Matt Elam was not a fan of Melvin Lewis at this time last year.
Sure, they were Kentucky teammates and both on the defensive line. But that didn't make Elam like Lewis any extra.
"When I came in, it wasn't the best of relationships because I was like, 'This dude is trying to take my spot. I'm not going to let him take my spot,'" Elam said.
The list of things Elam was wrong about in his rookie season at Kentucky is long and distinguished.
He thought his body would change overnight.
He thought the multitude of stars next to his name from recruiting services meant he would make an easy transition to college.
He thought he was going to be a star.
"I thought I was going to be the man," Elam said on Friday at UK's Media Day. "I thought I was going to do this and that. But things don't come easily here. Nobody's going to give you anything. I had to learn that the hard way."
Elam also was quite wrong about Lewis, who has turned into one of his good friends and perhaps the most important mentor he will have in his life.
The senior nose guard, whom Elam backs up on the UK defensive line this season, has tried hard to help the 6-foot-7, 360-pound sophomore with vast potential.
"If I feel like he's not giving it 100 percent, I'm the first one to get on him and tell him: 'Let's go. We got to play. You got to play this year. You have to make plays. You can't make mistakes,'" Lewis said.
After summer workouts, Lewis would pull Elam outside to the practice field to do more drills, to run extra sprints.
He wants his backup to be the best.
"I'm holding him accountable to be able to be an impact (player) this year as well," Lewis said.
At first, Elam was reluctant to accept the tutoring. Then he figured out that the two shared much more than a position on the football field despite Lewis growing up in Compton, Calif., and Elam in Radcliff.
"Me and Melvin started talking and I found out he had a hard life. I've had a hard life, too," Elam said. "We connected on a personal level. We share a lot of stories; we hang out a lot. We have fun."
They hang out and have fun in the film room, doing extra drills outside together, too.
Elam wants to make Lewis, the only returning starter on the Cats' defensive line, proud of him.
"I've tried to start doing things when nobody's watching, when the coaches aren't out there," Elam said. "A lot of players go home and do whatever, but I didn't want to be that player anymore. I had to go out there and work harder."
Lewis, who notched 37 tackles, including 2.5 for loss in his 12 starts last season, knew that his words of encouragement had sunk in when he noticed Elam outside doing drills by himself.
"You can see that he wants it," Lewis said of Elam, who had 10 tackles and two pass breakups last year. "He has that hunger now. I really believe that he's going to make a lot of good plays this year."
Kentucky's senior likes Elam and he's glad to help. It's the same kind of nudge he got from players like Mike Douglas, Christian Coleman, Za'Darius Smith and Bud Dupree when he first arrived as a raw junior college lineman.
"Those guys, they brought me along," Lewis explained. "They helped and progressed my game, so I just feel like I should be able to do the same thing for guys that's younger than me."
Coach Mark Stoops heaped loads of praise on Lewis for not just mentoring Elam but for showing other UK players what it means to be a true leader.
"Melvin has been a guy that has really tried to lead and help Matt in that area and give him that extra motivation and be the guy, and that's what it takes for all of our team."