UK Football

UK football: Alvin Dupree has played his way into a possible first-round draft pick

Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree (2)  sacked ULM quarterback Pete Thomas, as Kentucky played Louisiana Monroe, on  Saturday October 11, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats defensive end Alvin Dupree (2) sacked ULM quarterback Pete Thomas, as Kentucky played Louisiana Monroe, on Saturday October 11, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

He wears No. 2 because he doesn't want to ever feel like he's anywhere close to being No. 1.

"If I want to be No. 1, I always have to work like I'm No. 2," Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said about his jersey number earlier this season.

All of that work has earned him a place near the top of several NFL Draft boards, with a handful of different analysts picking Dupree to go in the first round in May.

"I don't really look for it, but on my Twitter sometimes I get tagged on it, so I look at it then," said Dupree, who ended last season projected somewhere between the second and fourth rounds. "But it's a blessing to be in that situation. I just try to brush it off, wait 'til after the season ... it's about my team, not about me."

That unselfish attitude, along with his skill, size and versatility, has drawn the interest of NFL teams, Coach Mark Stoops said.

"He's got everything you're looking for," Stoops said of his senior defensive end. "He's got the size; he's explosive. He's very versatile."

Stoops can see Dupree, once a scrawny, 230-pound tight end who now weighs in at 264 pounds, at virtually any linebacker position at the next level.

"They're all looking for great team players and guys who can pick things up well and move him around," Stoops said. "We do so much with him that we're actually, you take for granted how much and how quickly he picks things up. So he's going to be a great pro."

But for now, Dupree is ready to step up and be even more of a leader for a Kentucky team that has lost three straight games and will go up against No. 17 Georgia on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

It will be Dupree's Senior Day, along with 20 of his teammates, but the undisputed team leader has bigger things in mind, like trying to get Kentucky back in the wins column.

After a disappointing 20-10 loss at Missouri, Dupree was visibly frustrated that maybe his teammates had taken some praise too seriously.

He wants his teammates to start working like they have something to prove, the way that he has tried to do to move from No. 2 to No. 1.

"We've just got to keep that same hungry mentality," he said. "Just because somebody tells you, 'You did a good job,' you've just got to keep building up and just don't let last week's performance dictate what you'll do next week."

Dupree said he wants to see an angry Kentucky team take the field. "We've got to start stepping on people's throats. Just playing aggressive on both sides of the ball."

It's what Dupree plans to do no matter how many NFL Draft boards have him in the first round, like ESPN's "Big Board," which listed him as the No. 21 prospect. One CBS Sports analyst has him going at No. 20 to the Green Bay Packers and another at No. 26 to the Dallas Cowboys.

It's one of the reasons that even Kentucky's defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot called Dupree not only the team's best leader but its best player.

The senior doesn't care where his name shows up on what draft board, not with games still to play in a UK uniform.

"Bud is one of the greatest team players I've ever worked with," Eliot said recently. "The only thing Bud is concerned about is helping the team. He doesn't care about individual stats. He just is a Kentucky football player through and through."

Dupree, who has started 35 straight games and has 223 career tackles, including 32 for losses and 5.5 quarterback sacks, is close to breaking a 25-year-old Kentucky record, too.

Even if UK fails to make a bowl game, Dupree is on track to finish with more than seven sacks this season, which would break the all-time school record for sacks, besting Oliver Barnett's 26 by three.

But even the thought of having his name atop a column in the record book for the foreseeable future doesn't concern the senior.

Dupree said: "At the end of the day, even if I don't get it, if my teammates and me win the rest of the games, it'll be bigger for me as a person to win more games than get more sacks."