UK Football

It's been a long time coming for UK's Rumph, Bailey

Other than the team picture, there's not a lot to look forward to on Media Day. The coaches would rather be on the practice field while the players, particularly the veterans, are just trying to get through it.

But for at least two Wildcats, 2010 Media Day was indeed a big deal. Donte Rumph and Mychal Bailey were all smiles on Friday as they sported their UK jerseys and took in the atmosphere around Commonwealth Stadium, and considering how long it took both of them to get to Lexington, you can't really blame them.

Bailey originally signed with Kentucky in 2007 but had to spend two years at Southwest Community College and then had to pass two summer classes at Southern Union State College before finally getting cleared.

"It all came down to finals this summer," Bailey said. "I didn't go outside, talk to my friends or nothing. I stayed in class, and stayed in my dorms studying, and it paid off. I'm just happy to have it all behind me and get here."

Rumph signed with UK in 2008 but went to Fork Union Military Academy after not qualifying, and re-signed in 2009 but still couldn't get in school.

Rumph re-upped with the Cats for a third time in February, and last week he got a call from his father that he was finally good to go.

"He had to repeat it to me, I just couldn't believe it," Rumph said. "It was real emotional. We were both on the phone in tears."

The fact that Coach Joker Phillips, who recruited both players, hung in there through all the academic hurdles carries a lot of weight with Rumph and Bailey.

"I've been on a roller-coaster ride," Bailey said. "But Kentucky, they stayed with me from day one, from the day I signed until now. They checked up on me all the time. They treated me like family."

"That just shows their faith in me, and that I can trust them," Rumph said. "It's obvious I made the right choice. I really don't know another school that would have done that for me. I'm really blessed to have a coach like Coach Phillips stick it out for me when I really needed him."

When asked how it felt to be standing on the field in uniform, a big smile flashed across Rumph's face.

"It hasn't even hit me yet," Rumph said. "I'm thrilled. I'm ready to start camp, I'm ready to get working, I'm ready to hit the field, I'm ready to get in the weight room, I'm ready for Louisville."

Rumph's got a long way to go to get ready for Louisville, however. He hasn't played in an actual game since his first year at Fork Union in 2008. And Rumph said he currently weighs 315 pounds, a far cry from the 265 he's listed at in the UK media guide.

Kentucky needs Rumph to get in shape as quickly as possible, because they'll at least need his big body to throw into the mix of a thin rotation at tackle. But UK strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver said that the staff has to be careful not to push Rumph too hard.

"We have to make sure we understand he hasn't been here with us," Oliver said. "We have to be smart. He hasn't been involved in the rigors of a college program. When you push a guy too much under those circumstances, that's when you get the strained quads and pulled hamstrings."

Rumph seems to have reasonable expectations for himself.

"I think I can make it through camp, and I expect to get faster, stronger and better," Rumph said. "I'm willing to do anything now that I'm finally here. I just want to get in there and play, and hopefully at some point, start. But I just want to get in there and contribute and help my team win. "

Things aren't as dire at safety as they are at defensive tackle, but Phillips thinks Bailey can still contend for time there. Bailey, the latest in a long line of LaGrange prospects to wind up in Lexington, has been timed at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash and has the reputation as a big hitter, so he could develop into a special teams demon this fall. Bailey's big hits have turned him into a YouTube sensation, with his most popular video coming from his senior year at LaGrange when he hit a player so hard that he ruptured his spleen.

"I've got other big hits that didn't even make YouTube," Bailey said. "Hopefully I can make some more while I'm here at Kentucky."

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