RICHMOND — When Dy'Shawn Mobley and Jalen Whitlow signed scholarships with the University of Kentucky in 2012, they could not have expected to be part of a "UK football reunion" by 2014.
Yet, in a sense, that is what the duo will have Saturday when Eastern Illinois visits Eastern Kentucky for a 6 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference matchup.
EKU tailback Mobley is the OVC's leading rusher (averaging 106 yards a game). Eastern Illinois quarterback Whitlow is second in the OVC in total offense (237.6 yards a game). For their performances during the games of Sept. 20, the two shared the OVC Offensive Newcomer of the Week award.
"It's gonna be crazy, man, to be back (in Kentucky) playing in a game," Whitlow said last week. "I'm looking forward to it."
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Said Mobley: "Jalen was one of my best friends at Kentucky. It's gonna be a good experience to see him, see his face and get to talk to him a little bit."
The last time Mobley, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound junior from Powell, Tenn., and Whitlow, a 6-2, 220-pound product of Montgomery, Ala., graced the same field, it was last Nov. 30 in Commonwealth Stadium.
After making eight starts at quarterback in 2013 during UK's 2-10 slog, a physically battered Whitlow made only a cameo appearance during Kentucky's 27-14 loss to Tennessee. He carried the football once for three yards. Conversely, with the Kentucky running back corps emptied by injuries and suspensions, Mobley had the night of his UK career, running for 143 yards against his home-state school.
That night would be the last time either player wore a UK uniform.
Neither was a natural fit in the "Air Raid" system Mark Stoops hired offensive coordinator Neal Brown to install at Kentucky. Mobley is more of an I-formation tailback; Whitlow would seem a more natural fit in a run-oriented spread attack.
Not even two weeks after his big performance against Tennessee, Mobley announced that he was transferring from UK. In July, he explained that he had been unhappy with playing time and had already decided to leave Kentucky before his strong late-season play occurred.
Whitlow started spring practice, 2014, at UK trying to reclaim the starting QB job. However, during spring drills, Kentucky coaches informed Whitlow that he had been beaten out and asked him to move to wide receiver.
"I thought about it," Whitlow said. "But I wanted to be a quarterback; that's what I want to be. So it was just time for me to skedaddle."
Once each decided to exit UK, Mobley and Whitlow faced the same choice: Go to another FBS school, which would mean sitting out the season as a transfer, or move down to the FCS level and have the opportunity to play right away.
For Mobley, a relationship he had formed with EKU recruiting coordinator Ben Hodges when the Colonels wooed the running back during his high school days made Eastern Kentucky a quick choice.
Whitlow, however, said he was wide open on his post-Kentucky plans. After the quarterback chose Eastern Illinois, many speculated that he had picked the Charleston, Ill., school because it has sent QBs Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots rookie Jimmy Garoppolo to the NFL.
"I didn't know about that, about them, at all. Well, not at first," Whitlow said. "I just got a call, they started recruiting me and it seemed like the best fit with a chance to play right away."
Whitlow is returning to the state of Kentucky off the best game of his college career. In a 34-19 loss to Ohio University two weeks ago (Eastern Illinois was off last week), Whitlow ran 15 times for 112 yards and a touchdown, and he completed 30 of 46 passes for 289 yards and a score.
"I feel like I've gotten better," he said, "better in all areas."
What hasn't gone well for Eastern Illinois so far is the won/loss ledger. The Panthers are 1-4, although two of the defeats are to FBS schools Minnesota and Ohio.
In spearheading Eastern Kentucky's first 5-0 start since 1990, Mobley has run for more than 100 yards in three games.
"If there's a place where he has surprised me, he's surprised me a little bit with his downhill speed," Eastern Kentucky Coach Dean Hood said. "I didn't know he would be that fast."
Being in the same conference has allowed Mobley and Whitlow to follow each other from afar.
Mobley said that after he and his former UK teammate shared the OVC Newcomer of the Week award, Whitlow "shot me a message on Facebook."
Whitlow said Mobley "is showing he's the kind of back I always thought he could be."
With Kentucky scheduled to play Louisiana-Monroe at noon Saturday, Whitlow and Mobley are hoping some of their other former UK teammates will make it over to Richmond to see them play. (Another transfer from UK, defensive lineman Patrick Graffree, has 12 tackles and an interception this season for Eastern Kentucky).
Mobley said he is especially close with his former UK roommate, cornerback Cody Quinn, and linebacker Khalid Henderson. Whitlow said he talks "three times a week" with his former Kentucky roomie, cornerback Fred Tiller. Earlier this season, Whitlow said he texted with UK standouts Bud Dupree and Patrick Towles.
"I think some of the guys will come over," Whitlow said. "I think some of the academic people (from UK) are coming, too. I'm really looking forward to seeing everybody."
After all, that's what a reunion is for.