The county seat of Bourbon County is significantly smaller than Lexington, and is a world removed from Boston. Its population is half the size of Fort Thomas, where Patrick Towles authored the prequel to his college football story.
Paris is peaceful, Towles says, and it’s where he’s chosen to start his epilogue.
“I like it here a lot,” said Towles, who played for Boston College in 2016 after spending the previous four years at the University of Kentucky. “It’s definitely a change of pace but I like it a lot.”
Towles arrived at UK as one of its most-celebrated recruits in program history. He’d led Highlands — one of the state’s premier high school football programs — to three consecutive state titles and a 44-1 record as a starting quarterback from 2009-2011. He wound up at Boston College after deciding to transfer upon his graduation from UK, and finished his college career with 6,829 passing yards (5,099 at UK) and 36 touchdowns (24 at UK).
Now he’s living with his parents in Paris, where they moved during his junior year in Lexington. Towles recently got hired at the local Traditional Bank branch in town, and in the last week of October started volunteering with the Paris High School football team after an assistant coach reached out to him.
“I live right up the street. I probably live a mile away,” Towles said of his proximity to Blanton Collier Stadium, where Paris practices and plays its home games. The Greyhounds, who had a first-round bye, will host Raceland in the second round of the playoffs on Friday.
In Towles’ first week assisting with play calls, Paris’ offense produced 525 yards and 45 points in a 52-32 win over Ludlow to close out the regular season. He spent a good portion of a bye-week practice last Thursday working one-on-one with senior quarterback Aaron Maggard before going through passing drills with a group of quarterbacks and receivers.
He brought some high-fives and encouraging words, but the second-week coach didn’t hesitate at all to rip guys when they messed up.
“He’s coaching. That’s what that’s called. He’s coaching,” Paris head coach Brian Washington said with a grin. “He makes our job a lot easier when we can do other things and turn ’em loose to him and know that when we come back together as a team, he’s gonna have ’em ready to go.”
Washington said a misconception by some outsiders about bringing Towles into the fold is that he would have a hard time relating to high school kids. The sixth-year head coach scoffed at that notion.
“He demands presence on the field and the kids respond. That’s one thing I’ve seen with him,” Washington said. “We’ve given him groups and let him coach and he’s fit right in like he’s been here all year.”
Washington likes to call Towles a “quarterback whisperer” who’s been “phenomenal for Maggard,” a quarterback whose numbers have dropped off from a year ago due to a more run-oriented approach on offense. But Maggard’s ability has helped him break a litany of school passing records in his fourth year as a Paris signal-caller.
“When you’ve got a kid that can throw the ball ... like Maggard does as far as putting the zip on it, that’s a dream come true for a guy like Patrick,” Washington said.
Towles tried out with the Houston Texans during their rookie mini-camp in May. He continues to stay in football shape and remains hopeful that a professional opportunity will present itself, but “great timing” has afforded him a chance to build some coaching experience. Washington already thinks Towles could be a great head coach someday if he wants to go that route.
“I don’t know if I’ll be here next year. I don’t know where I’ll be in two weeks,” Towles said. “But I’m here now, and they needed some help, so I’m glad to do it.”
Towles isn’t afraid to put his personality on display. He’s a guy that once dressed up as Harry Potter for a cover of The Cats’ Pause annual yearbook.
On Twitter he frequently cracks jokes and presents his followers with irreverent polls — “Would you rather win $5,000 or Krispy Kreme for life?” — while occasionally taking a moment to poke fun at himself — “My happiness level has a strong positive correlation to the amount of times I get on Pinterest during the day,” he tweeted in October.
A self-deprecating social-media maestro who lives with his parents but works multiple gigs and still finds a way to stay in peak athletic condition? If an all-star team of millennial footballers were built, Towles would be a runaway No. 1 pick.
Because of his high-profile roles, Towles has taken more heat than many of his peers in a much-maligned generation.
“I don’t take myself too seriously,” he said. “I’ve been the subject of a lot of criticism, as every SEC and ACC quarterback is, so if you can’t take a shot at yourself then I think you’ve got more issues than that.”
Assisting at Paris has brought him a bit closer to his high school roots. The spotlight was smaller at Highlands, and is even smaller at Paris, where seasons can be held up as successful even if they don’t end in state championships.
Highlands ran platoons — “which was uncommon for a high school team” — while Towles was with the Bluebirds. Paris’ best athletes have to be on the field for the entire 48 minutes of game time for the Greyhounds to maximize their chances of victory.
The programs do share a commonality aside from Towles’ involvement.
“It’s a bunch of guys that just love football,” Towles said. “That was why we were so successful at Highlands, because we had a bunch of guys that just loved to play, and it’s the exact same here.”
Football is football, whether it’s played 4 miles from Fenway Park, within an earshot of Cincinnati or at a small stadium named after the former head coach of the first college you attended.
In the latter, if only for a moment, Towles has found peace.