Football

Mark Story: What Patrick Graffree wants you to know about the punch that dropped Drew Barker

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker leaves the field after the University of Kentucky's annual media day, Friday, Aug. 07, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker leaves the field after the University of Kentucky's annual media day, Friday, Aug. 07, 2015 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Jonathan Palmer

RICHMOND — Do a Google search on the name of Eastern Kentucky football player Patrick Graffree. Two of the five images that come up are pictures of Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker.

Enter "Patrick Graffree" in a Twitter search. The images that are retrieved are all from the security-camera footage of Graffree punching Barker in the back of the head during last January's infamous UK-EKU football player fights in Richmond.

Graffree, a former Kentucky player who transferred to Eastern, wants you to know something about his part in that incident.

He regrets it.

"I embarrassed my team and myself," he said last week. "I embarrassed my name. Every time I want my name to come out or be out is for good things. And that didn't happen in that case."

Saturday night, Eastern Kentucky (2-1) will visit Kentucky (3-1) in Commonwealth Stadium in what may be the most interesting FCS vs. FBS football contest ever.

The backdrop is what happened Jan. 25. According to a Richmond police investigatory report, Eastern offensive lineman Colton Scurry initiated a bar fight with three UK players — Barker, wide receiver Dorian Baker and defensive lineman Tymere Dubose — at Jerzee's Cocktail Lounge & Dance Club.

When the melee ended, Scurry had a broken nose and other facial fractures.

Inexplicably, the three Kentucky players did not leave Richmond after the fight, instead accompanying a female EKU student to her dormitory, Telford Hall.

There, as the Richmond police report puts it, the security video "shows Graffree taking off his sweatshirt as he enters the building and approaches Baker, Barker and Dubose. Graffree then strikes Barker, knocking him to the ground."

From the video, the blow delivered by the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Graffree to the back of Barker's head would not be inconsistent with what is called a "sucker punch."

In explaining his mindset at the time, Graffree says that after hearing of the injuries suffered by Scurry, his emotions got the better of him.

"It was just me not thinking, me reacting before thinking," he said.

With the potential for raw feelings each way, Saturday night's game is a test for head coaches Mark Stoops and Dean Hood in keeping any lingering ill will in check.

An animated Stoops vowed at his Monday news conference to put the kibosh on any trash talking or chippy play from the Wildcats. "If I see any of that stuff, a guy is not going to play," Stoops said. "That looks classless and it looks sloppy and we will not play that way."

Once, Graffree envisioned himself wearing the home colors in Commonwealth Stadium. Between his junior and senior seasons at Central Hardin High School, he turned heads in Joker Phillips' 2011 UK football summer camp.

Kentucky offered him a scholarship; Graffree accepted on the spot.

While sitting out as a redshirt in 2012, Graffree put 20 pounds of muscle on his frame working with then-UK strength coach Ray "Rock" Oliver.

After Phillips was fired during a 2-10 season, Graffree went through spring practice in 2013 under Stoops. He says he left Kentucky of his own volition before the '13 season after a frank conversation with UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh.

"They were bringing in new transfers and all that," Graffree says. "They were talking like the chances of me playing that year weren't going to be what they were. I could have stayed, and sometimes I think about it. But I don't have any regrets."

At Eastern, Graffree has been a contributor. He picked off two passes last season.

Nothing he's done on the field, however, has brought the attention that punching Barker did. When the media obtained security footage of the incident, it went viral in a major way. TMZ, The New York Daily News, The Big Lead, the video ended up on websites everywhere.

"It bothered me," Graffree said of the video's spread.

In that sense, Graffree and Barker seem to be on the same page. I asked the Kentucky quarterback during the preseason how he felt when the footage of him getting punched to the floor went viral.

"I just really don't want to comment on that," Barker said.

In April, EKU suspended Graffree from the football team due to the punch. It reinstated him in July.

"He'd probably still be suspended if he'd come in full-of-himself and unapologetic," said Eastern Athletics Director Steve Lochmueller. "But he was very humble throughout the process. I had an opportunity to sit with him, I believe it was in mid-May, and he knew he let his emotional reaction to what happened to a teammate get the best of him.

"We in college athletics, we deal with young men and young women, and young people make mistakes. Patrick was humble and regretful throughout this. I'm proud to have him back on our football team."

Graffree isn't sure how he will feel Saturday night in Commonwealth Stadium. He does hope that, with time, a Google search of his name will no longer yield images of Drew Barker.

"I did a selfish act and put my team in jeopardy," Patrick Graffree said. "I promise you, I will never do that again."

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