The thought of yet another hip surgery had Ricky Lumpkin scared to death.
But now, after his latest procedure, Lumpkin has gone from feeling like an old man to feeling like a new one.
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Lumpkin, a 6-foot-4, 289-pound sophomore defensive tackle from Clarksville, Tenn., had surgery on his hip the summer before he arrived at the University of Kentucky. His recovery cost him a good portion of fall camp, and he ended up redshirting.
Lumpkin showed flashes of brilliance last fall but was limited to seven games because of recurring problems with the hip. In April, Lumpkin learned that he would need surgery to remove calcium deposits from his hip area. He remembers the agony he was going through during that surgery.
“I was laying down saying, ‘I don't want to do this anymore,' ” he said. “But I just sucked it up.”
Lumpkin had to undergo an arthroscopic surgery on the hip the following week.
“After the second surgery, I wasn't in much pain, but I was concerned I wouldn't be able to play football anymore,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this might actually be over.' ”
But the football gods were smiling on Lumpkin. He was able to start running just a month after surgery, and that was a good thing because he ballooned to 310 pounds while inactive. He slowly got back down to his playing weight of 289, and he'll spend fall camp getting back in football shape.
UK Coach Rich Brooks said Lumpkin has been moving around just fine during the first few days of practice, and Lumpkin said he hasn't felt this healthy since his sophomore year of high school.
Before the surgery, Lumpkin said, he couldn't even bend down to tie his shoes. Now he can bend the knee up to his chest and do squats for the first time since he's been at UK. He can also get down in a left-handed stance, something he couldn't do last season.
“Whenever I would try and get in a left-handed stance, I would fall because I wasn't that flexible,” Lumpkin said. “I'm just feeling good that I can finally play football at 100 percent. There's no pain. Now I can have fun, learn stuff, and get yelled at for doing something wrong while I'm in a left-handed stance. I can do squats now. I think I'll be healthier, stronger and just better all-around.
“The trainers were telling me, ‘Don't come back to the training room; we've graduated you out of here.' ”
Lumpkin's return now gives UK what should be a solid four-player rotation at tackle, including projected starters Corey Peters and Myron Pryor and sophomore Shane McCord. And the overall depth of the D-line will be helped by the return of another letterman from injury: senior Nii Adjei Oninku. Oninku missed last season after tearing the ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee.
Oninku will team with sacks leader Jeremy Jarmon and senior Ventrell Jenkins to give the Cats three solid options at end, and Jenkins can slip inside and help at tackle.
“It makes you feel a lot better,” defensive line coach Rick Petri said. “Now we've got six guys that have played a lot of football. It also gives you some options, and you can move some people around if you need to.”
Petri said the defensive line is the one area where you probably need more depth than any other.
“It's the nature of the position,” Petri said. “You can't practice the position without getting hit. And how many times can you get double-teamed by a pair of 300-pounders without it wearing you down.”
Wildcats to go full pads on Saturday
UK conducted its final split-squad practice on Thursday in helmets and shoulder pads. The Cats will have their first full-squad practice Friday and will be in full pads Saturday. Brooks said the team might hold a light scrimmage on Saturday. Brooks noted that junior offensive tackle Justin Jeffries missed Thursday's practice and would probably miss another day or two because of a jammed shoulder, but the injury did not appear serious.
Fan Day Saturday
The annual Kentucky Football Fan Day will be Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. Stadium gates 4 and 9 open at 6:30 p.m., when posters and schedule cards will be given away. There will be special activities on the stadium concourse, including the giant inflatable games for kids. The first 2,000 fans will get a coupon for a free hot dog and drink (redeemable on Fan Day only).
Coach Brooks and the team will be introduced at 7:15 p.m., followed by an autograph session with coaches and players. There is a limit of two autographs per player and coach.
An equipment stand will be set up, and fans can try on UK helmets and shoulder pads. UK trainers also will have a station, demonstrating ankle taping and other activities. The autograph session ends at 9 p.m., and the event concludes with fireworks.