UK Football

He came to UK as a pole-vaulter. Now he’s a special-teams star on the football field.

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Charles Moushey (84) celebrated after a big tackle on special teams versus Florida last season. The walk-on has graduated but his efforts still motivate teammates this season.
Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Charles Moushey (84) celebrated after a big tackle on special teams versus Florida last season. The walk-on has graduated but his efforts still motivate teammates this season. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Charles Moushey clearly had a prominent place on Eastern Michigan’s scouting report.

The Eagles razzed and harassed Kentucky’s senior up and down Kroger Field last week.

Who? What? Why? All are natural questions about a UK wide receiver that has never caught a pass.

And yet there was Moushey drawing a double-team on kickoffs on Saturday and a double-team on punts, too.

“People are trying to get him contained,” Cats special teams coach Dean Hood said of the 6-foot, 180-pound walk-on from Westerville, Ohio.

With good reason.

After amassing just two tackles last season on special teams, Moushey has emerged as a special teams star this season, charting six tackles in the first five games, including two of them inside opponents’ 20-yard line.

He’s become most notable for his three downed punts on the opponents’ 1-yard line. He can flip the field.

Kentucky's special teams have excelled this year under coordinator Dean Hood. Head coach Mark Stoops talked about their play Monday.

The speedster, who arrived at UK in 2014 as a pole-vaulter for the track and field team, has made it an art form to race Matt Panton punts down the field and turn around in time to corral them just as they reach the goal line.

“Matt practices that punt every day,” Moushey described. “I just kind of let him do his thing and I’ll get down there, and he’s perfected it.”

How does one get noticed for this not always easily identifiable skill set? Hood saw speed — pure speed — on special teams tape from the spring and moved Moushey to gunner.

“I knew I was pretty quick,” he said. “The fact that they gave me a chance — I just asked for one chance — and they let me have it. I showed them what I had.”

Moushey has always been one to take off running and get to the other side of the field quickly. He’s glad he can show it off a little in front of a crowd. He’ll try again on Saturday against Missouri, which is at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in punt returns.

Moushey added: “I’m just fortunate enough that Coach Hood has given me an opportunity and is letting me show off my skills.”

The problem is, now opponents are trying to make sure his skills aren’t put to use.

It’s the ultimate sign of respect, though, Coach Mark Stoops told Moushey.

“That’s exactly what I said to him Saturday because he was all frustrated,” Stoops said. “They ambushed him and he was getting all frustrated and I said, ‘Hey, hey, now you know it’s coming, keep your cool. That is a sign of respect. … They ain’t going to let you make every play.’

“So we got some things corrected and he beat it the next time.”

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Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Charles Moushey (84) and Josh Allen (41) celebrated downing a punt near the 1 yard line in the first half as UK hosted Florida at Kroger Field on Saturday Sept. 23, 2017 in Lexington. Mark Mahan

It’s easy to see why Moushey was able to beat it the next time. Just watch him in practice or in a game.

It’s about great speed, great athleticism and the ability to run with power, all things Moushey has, Hood said.

But it’s about more than that for the pole vaulter who set the UK freshman record for pole vaulting at the SEC Championships in 2014.

“He’s just got an incredible passion for the game,” Hood said of Moushey, whose double teams helped free up other teammates like long snapper Tristan Yeomans to recover a muffed punt last week.

“He loves it. He plays at a higher level than everybody else because he loves the game and he just wants it more. There’s no other way to put it. People can’t match his intensity and passion level on every single rep.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

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UK's Charles Moushey clears the bar in the men's pole vault during the Kentucky Track and Field Invitational at Nutter Fieldhouse on the UK campus in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. Matt Goins Herald-Leader

Next game

Missouri at Kentucky

7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC)

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