Sidelined by injury and unable to do much of anything related to football last fall, Jeff Badet bided his time by keeping his mind on the game, in whatever way possible.
There were the marathon video game sessions with University of Kentucky teammate and fellow injured wide receiver Alex Montgomery.
"The first two months of the season, that's all we did was play Madden," Montgomery said with a big smile. "Madden, Madden, Madden. We would just sit there all day and play that game."
There was the breaking down of UK's game film, which would mean nothing to Badet in the short term, but he did it anyway to keep his head on his football future.
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"Even though I sat out, I was still looking at defenses," Badet said. "Some of the teams we play (this season), they're going to have the same players and run the same defensive schemes. So I just used that time to study up so — when my time does come — I'll be ready."
Once he finally made it back to the field last spring — a broken leg and a freak eye injury kept him out for the 2014 season — Badet showed everyone that the promise of his freshman season was no fluke.
UK wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord praised his performance in spring ball, and — while UK's coaches can't be around players much in the summer — he heard that hard work carried over.
"You hear people talk all the way around the building, and there's very few people, if any, that have worked harder than Jeff has this summer," Mainord said. "He's in great shape, and I'm as excited as anybody to see him run around out there."
Badet, who declared himself "100 percent healthy" in a tweet the night before UK players reported for fall camp, gave Mainord and the rest of the Wildcats' coaching staff plenty to watch once he got on the field.
In Saturday's practice — which was open to fans and the media — Badet caught a screen pass and took off. It would have been a sure touchdown in a game situation, and by the time a UK coach blew his whistle Badet was well clear of everyone else on the field.
UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Badet had done the same thing the previous day.
"I think he's one of the most explosive guys on the team as far as just straight-ahead running," Dawson said. "He did the same thing yesterday. It was two days in a row that he took a (short) pass and split the defense. So I definitely think he's a guy that can make a lot of plays for us, put pressure on the defense."
Badet, who was third on the team in receiving with 22 catches and 285 yards as a true freshman, said that he wants to be "that guy that defenses are scared of," the guy that defensive coordinators have to game plan for, and the guy that makes defensive backs second guess themselves on just how they're going to keep him from getting loose.
There are some fleet-of-foot players on the UK roster this season, but Badet's name was the first to hit the lips of Coach Mark Stoops when he was asked after Saturday's practice to name the fastest Wildcat.
UK's returning starter at quarterback is happy to have Badet back, too.
"He can move, man," said Patrick Towles. "He's smooth. I think a lot of people are kind of sleeping on him, but he's going to make a lot of plays for us this year."
The highlight of Badet's only season on the field with the Cats came early in the 2013 campaign. It was the home opener against Miami (Ohio), and the 6-foot speedster did what UK's fans and coaches are hoping to see much more of in the future.
He raced to an open spot in the middle of the field, caught the ball in stride, immediately pinged off one defender and then outran the rest to the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
Badet finished that fall with more promise — a six-catch, 47-yard day against Tennessee — in the season finale, then looked like one of the Cats' best receivers the following spring before suffering the broken leg.
Ample playing time was planned for Badet in 2014, and Mainord lamented not having one of his top playmakers on the field during a season in which the Cats came oh-so-close to bowl eligibility.
He said Badet was frustrated, too, but only for a little bit.
The third-year sophomore is known around the program for his positivity, and Mainord said the mindset quickly switched from "hard times" to "how do I make this work for me?"
Badet now looks back on 2014 as a learning experience, not a wasted year. He looks forward to this fall as a realization of hard work, starring a bigger, faster version of himself.
"I just look at it as a blessing," Badet said. "It gave me an extra year under my belt, and it gave me an extra year to get bigger and stronger off the field.
"When it's time for Saturday, I'll be ready."