There are a lot of clichéd words like “warrior” bantered about in college athletics.
If they really do exist in sports, one walks the practice fields at Kentucky.
Offensive line coach John Schlarman, who has been battling a serious and undisclosed illness since before the start of fall camp, has been nothing short of a warrior, Coach Mark Stoops said Monday.
“At this point John has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and is handling things with a very strong attitude and strong mindset and is getting the very best treatment he can and again just continue to pray for him,” Stoops updated while previewing Saturday’s season opener versus Central Michigan.
Schlarman, whom Stoops said has been responding “very well to the medicine,” hasn’t missed a day of work despite his diagnosis.
“Just walking over here just now, saw John walking out of the building with one of our other coaches to go for a little walk and get some exercise,” the head coach said. “And last Friday he had chemotherapy all morning and he was at practice in the afternoon. So, he’s been a warrior with this. Again, we’re just thinking and praying for him and his family.”
The 43-year-old former Kentucky offensive line standout, who has been on Stoops’ staff since the beginning, has motivated UK players and coaches. Attend a practice and you’re unlikely to hear anyone complaining about a drill running too long or the heat and humidity.
“How can you be a player out there feeling sorry for yourself when you have a man that’s just gone through five, six hours of chemo and is sitting out there on the practice field coaching the same way he does every day?” Stoops said. “That’s pretty inspirational to me, and I would assume to the players as well.”
The offensive line at UK has had to shoulder some difficult things already this season, first knowing that their position coach is battling an illness and then finding out over the weekend that starting left tackle Landon Young will miss the season after suffering a knee injury.
Stoops has been proud of how they’ve coped. It helps to have so many leaders in the group, which includes veterans like seniors Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei as well as regulars like Logan Stenberg and center Drake Jackson.
“That room is very much player led,” Stoops said. “We all know John is exceptional and I’ve gone in there and talked to them a bit. We have kept the group updated. What the plan is, what John is going through.
“They’ve been the first to know a lot of these things. Just tried to be up front and honest with them. John has a great relationship with them so I think they can certainly be inspired by the way John is handling this and the way he’s going about his business.”
UK has not changed Schlarman’s recruiting load as of yet, but Stoops tries to be cautious about overloading him, encouraging the offensive line coach to go home and rest when possible like on Sunday night.
“He has great comfort in knowing that there are people here who can pick up the slack,” Stoops said, noting that all of the offensive coaches are trying to help lighten the load for their friend. “All of our guys are kind of all hands on deck with our offensive staff. We all do understand that there could be a situation where he may need time away. So, we’re dealing with it day to day.”