It meant a little something more to his defensive line coach to hear Za'Darius Smith's name get called in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Kentucky's Jimmy Brumbaugh has coached Smith for the past three seasons, first at East Mississippi Community College and then for the past two years at UK.
Brumbaugh has had a front-row seat as Smith has grown from a 242-pound diamond in the rough at the junior college level to a legitimate defensive end in the Southeastern Conference, where he started all 24 games he played in and grew into the Cats' most effective run stopper.
"From the very first day I was with him, he's always worked hard to be the best player he can," Brumbaugh said of Smith, who only played one full season of high school football, focusing most of his athletics energy on basketball instead.
"He's always had a chip on his shoulder because he wasn't rated coming out of high school."
Smith's fire and drive were some of his strongest points during the evaluation process, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein said, noting that the end "plays like his hair is on fire and is more than happy to mix it up with tackles in the trenches."
Smith is strong at the point of attack and is willing to "do the dirty work for a defense," Zierlein continued.
During his two-year Kentucky career, Smith amassed 120 tackles, 14 for loss and 10.5 sacks.
The defensive end was named Most Outstanding Defensive player of the East-West Shrine Game and was invited to the Reese's Senior Bowl. After his stellar performance in the East-West game, Smith was projected by NFL Media Analyst Charles Davis as one of his five draft day steals.
"Smith kept flashing at the East-West Shrine Game," Davis wrote on the league's site. "In fact, he was so impressive that he received a call-up to the Senior Bowl, where he had a very good week. He's a high-effort player who will battle to make plays."
A senior NFL Media Analyst, Gil Brandt, noted that Smith's 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame coupled with his speed "will be appetizing for NFL teams."
Brumbaugh saw Smith develop as a technician in his brief time at Kentucky.
"The transition when we came here from junior college, he really started understanding the game and understanding hat you couldn't just beat everyone with your speed and your pass rush moves," Brumbaugh said. "You had to set things up, and I think really that's where he got a lot better. He's gotten bigger and stronger."
As analysis and projections started coming out and showed Smith going anywhere from the third to the fifth round to places all over the map, the coach told his lineman to block it all out.
"The main thing I told him is don't worry about where you're going to go," Brumbaugh said. "God has brought you this far. Just keep trusting that everything's going to work out and get you to the best team for you."
Smith is the second Kentucky player to go in this year's NFL Draft behind fellow defensive lineman Bud Dupree, who was picked in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This year marks the first time since 2012 that UK had two or more players selected in the draft. That season both Winston Guy (Seahawks) and Danny Trevathan (Broncos) went in the sixth round.
The Cats last had three players go in one draft in 2010 with Corey Peters, Trevard Lindley and John Conner.
Undrafted free agents
Three other former Kentucky players found their next opportunities after the draft.
Darrian Miller, who also starred at Bryan Station, will sign with the Cleveland Browns. Wide receiver Javess Blue agreed to a deal with the Green Bay Packers. And tight end Ronnie Shields and the Seahawks came to terms on a free-agent deal.
Running back Braylon Heard will be at the Browns' rookie camp on a tryout basis.