UK Football

UK player on weekly trips to children’s hospital: ‘To put a smile on their face is everything I want to do.’

UK sports heroes visit Kentucky Children’s Hospital

As part of the University of Kentucky's weeklong homecoming celebration UK football tight end CJ Conrad, along with UK cheerleaders Riley Aguiar, Josh Marsh, and Wildcat mascot Scratch, visited patients in the Kentucky Children's Hospital.
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As part of the University of Kentucky's weeklong homecoming celebration UK football tight end CJ Conrad, along with UK cheerleaders Riley Aguiar, Josh Marsh, and Wildcat mascot Scratch, visited patients in the Kentucky Children's Hospital.

Tiny fingers tried to grasp a tiny football.

Standing close by watching with a wide smile is Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad.

This has become the senior’s regular Tuesday routine, quietly spending mornings hanging out with pint-sized patients at the UK Children’s Hospital.

This Tuesday was a little more raucous as part of a makeshift Kentucky Homecoming parade that included UK cheerleaders Riley Aguiar and Josh Marsh — the never-ending, flipping student who has new social media fame — passing out blue beads, signed tiny footballs, pom-poms and high-fives to patients.

The mascot Scratch took a ride on a “float” in the parade, which was really a hospital gurney decorated with blue and white streamers.

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As part of the University of Kentucky’s weeklong homecoming celebration UK football tight end CJ Conrad, along with UK cheerleaders Riley Aguiar and Josh Marsh, and Scratch visited with patients in the Kentucky Children’s Hospital on Tuesday morning. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com


“No offense to you all, but I come here every Tuesday,” Conrad joked to some local media following along for the fun festivities, “passing footballs out, hanging out with kids, signing footballs for them just to bring a smile to their face is why I’m here.”

With a handful of credit hours left needed to graduate, UK’s senior tight end had some extra time on his hands this semester. Following in the footsteps of friend and former Cats linebacker Courtney Love, Conrad wanted to do a service project.

Love won the national Wuerffel Trophy last season for leadership and community service. It helped Conrad see that he could use his platform to help people.

So with the help of Freddie Maggard, UK’s director of player development, Conrad got connected to the UK Children’s Hospital.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far,” he said.

Most Tuesday mornings, the senior tight end roams the hallways and visits patients in their rooms to “check in and say, ‘Hi.’”

Many have noted the big season No. 14 Kentucky is having, going 5-1 so far. Conrad is peppered with questions.

“They ask the common question: Why don’t you get the ball more?” he said with a laugh. “I’ve heard that one before once or twice.”

Other Tuesdays, when there’s a larger group of kids “who want to hang, we go to the play room and make stuff,” Conrad said with the enthusiasm of a 6-year-old in a room full of Legos. “We made slime one time. That was pretty cool.”

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Kentucky football tight end C.J. Conrad gave away these autographed football to the patients in the Kentucky Children’s Hospital on Tuesday morning. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

There’s something special about the timings of these “Tuesdays with C.J.” for Conrad. They also fall on the day that is usually most taxing for football players.

Later on Tuesday, he will be joining his Kentucky teammates for the most physically taxing practice of the week, followed by other off-the-field work to prepare for Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

So starting his Tuesdays off like this has helped provide perspective for the likely future professional player who one day hopes to create his own foundation that will help kids.

“This starts my day off really well, get away from football for a little while, see these kids, see what they’re going through really helps me get through the week, what I consider a tough day,” he said.

“These kids have it much harder and to put a smile on their face is everything I want to do.”

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University of Kentucky cheerleaders Josh Marsh and Riley Aguiar, Wildcat mascot Scratch, and UK football player C.J. Conrad had their photo taken with 12-year-old patient Adriana Juarez-Torres as the group visited with patients Tuesday morning in the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

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