Hand the Kentucky locker room a Rubik's cube and the famous puzzle game will keep players busy for about two minutes, but probably less.
The combination puzzle with its tiny multi-colored squares became a popular topic of conversation at the table of UK offensive lineman Jordan Swindle during Southeastern Conference Media Days this week with the senior guessing he can get one solved in "like a minute-ish."
While some players in Hoover were peppered with questions about their 40-yard dash times (although Swindle did get some questions like that, too) UK's lineman likely was the only one asked about a Rubik's cube time.
"I don't know an average (time)," he said when asked. "But if you give me a Rubik's cube, I can do it in under two minutes, for sure."
His curiosity was piqued in eighth grade.
"I just always wanted to do it. I saw it and I knew that it was something difficult people couldn't do, so I wanted to try to do it."
It's apparently not that difficult for a guy just down the line from Swindle either. In his media guide bio, Kyle Meadows declared he can solve a Rubik's cube in roughly one minute, 30 seconds.
For the media masses, Swindle even offered a brief tutorial on how to solve the puzzle quickly. (My guess is none of us can do it that fast even with the cheat sheet.)
"You have to work in layers," he said, explaining that he does it the same way each time. "So you solve the top and then from there, you solve the next layer, then you have to flip it over and follow that pattern and figure out how to put the certain blocks where you want them to figure out."
Solving the Rubik's cube isn't the only brainy thing on Swindle's mind. The two-year starter from St. John's, Fla., also may have quite the decision to make when he's finished at Kentucky: NFL or medical school?
"My plan for sure is to try for the NFL no matter what and then my backup plan would be to do med school," he explained.
Swindle's dream is to become an orthopedic surgeon. He has three classes to finish in the fall and then he'll graduate and finish a couple more pre-med requirements before applying to medical schools.
Much like his fascination with the Rubik's cube as a kid, he also thinks it's interesting how the human body works.
Wearing a navy suit and sitting at a podium in the main media room, Swindle lifted his left arm slowly to show which muscles were responsible for lifting it.
"You know lifting from here versus lifting from here and you'd think it was all one muscle lifting up and it's not," Swindle showed. "Just crazy stuff."
Everybody's got talent
A perusal of Kentucky's new media guide reveals that Swindle isn't the only one with hidden talents and a potentially bright future. In their personal info portion of their biographies, several players offered interesting insight.
There are plenty of smart guys like defensive end Kengera Daniel who wants to be a neurologist and is majoring in bio-systems engineering. Linebacker Kobie Walker ponders a career in civil engineering.
Others have high-powered aspirations. Punter Landon Foster and nickelback Blake McClain both want to be an athletics director (or commissioner of the Southeastern Conference for Foster) one day. Offensive lineman Nick Haynes wants to be governor of Florida. Offensive linemen Cole Mosier or Zach West or linebacker Eli Brown may be a future federal agent.
If this whole football team thing doesn't work out, maybe some Cats' reported hidden talents could come in handy as they form their very own boy band. Daron Blaylock says he's taking vocal lessons for a Broadway show; fullback Will Thomas Collins, cornerback J.D. Harmon, long snapper Kelly Mason, center Jon Toth, cornerback Jared Tucker and wide receiver T.V. Williams, all say they can sing, and wideout Thaddeus Snodgrass claims he's a "pretty good shower singer, too.
Walk-on wideout Cameron Fogle wants to be a country singer. McClain adds that he's a heck of a whistler.
Tight end Greg Hart plays the guitar and Stanley "Boom" Williams plays the drums (gives the "Boom" a whole new meaning, eh?). Defensive tackle Zane Williams plays the piano and quarterback Patrick Towles said he's "learning to play the harmonica."
When the band's first album comes out, maybe Adrian Middleton will design the cover with his hidden graphic design skills.
There are other fun bits of note like quarterback Drew Barker owning a pet turtle named Nemo. Kicker Max Strong aspires to one day own a tiger. Mason dreams of being a professional fishing guide. Linebacker Dorian Hendrix meditates daily.
Linebacker Ryan Flannigan reports that he can eat 100 wings in 20 minutes. Maybe running back Jojo Kemp can help him with that since he says he's a great cook.
When asked what they would do if they could trade places with Mark Stoops for a day, linebacker Courtney Love would call a team meeting and then not show up. Zach West said he would "take over the seven kingdoms." (Man, SEC coaches have a lot of power).
More on the stadium
When I sat down with Russ Pear this week, UK's senior associate athletics director for Capital Projects, seemed confident that the $120 million Commonwealth Stadium project will be done on time and within budget.
That was the big news, but there were also a few other tidbits from that interview that I found interesting.
When Pear and his staff finished the Nutter Center for the football staff in 1993, then-Athletics Director C.M. Newton said at the press conference that it was the "last piece of the facility puzzle."
Some millions of dollars in renovations later, Pear chuckles about that.
He also is in charge of the project running simultaneously next to Commonwealth Stadium, and Pear notes that the completion date for the new, $45 million UK practice facility is set for July 1, 2016. Much of the steel foundation for that project is going up now.
■ On a personal note, this is a chaotic (but fun, he says) time in Pear's life. His son got married this weekend and his daughter is scheduled to give birth to his first grandchild (a girl) at the end of September.
"So I've got the trifecta of things getting ready to happen here," he said. "I'm a little anxious about all of those things altogether, but it's all good stuff. It's all good."
■ With so many projects up in the air this summer, Pear hasn't had any time to even think about a vacation, so he reports that in October, probably after the Thursday night Auburn game, that "people may not see me for about 10 days. I'm hoping."
The cost of checkerboards
While perusing the contract changes and adjustments for the projects at both Commonwealth Stadium and the football practice facility, there was a purchase order for $36,178 that UK needed to add the oft-discussed checkerboard pattern in the new turf.
The alternating blue "pattern of excellence," as UK refers to the design in the Commonwealth Stadium end zones that are based on Secretariat's silks, required additional money. The initial contract with Vescio's SportsFields for turf installation called for solid-colored end zones.
The additional $36,178 went toward "alternating panels of blue in the end zones. ... Work to include additional 7'6" x 7'6" end zone panels with all tape, adhesive and labor necessary to create."
The pattern has been a part of the UK football uniforms each of the past five seasons. The pattern was tested for the final home game in 2014.
The new field is one of Pear's favorite features at the newly renovated stadium. He said the final price tag for it was roughly $1 million.
"We got a really neat look out of that; I'm pleased with that," he said. "I tell people now anytime you fly over this stadium — it doesn't matter when it is unless there's 3-4 inches of snow on the ground — it's going to look just like that every time."
This week at Media Days, Stoops said he only visits the stadium every couple weeks. But the field caught his eye last time he did.
"I tried to stay away as they were laying the turf," said the coach, who called for UK to change to a synthetic surface. "I really wanted to see it when it was done, but I peeked in there a few times. Obviously it's done now and settling in. The field really looks good and the stadium is coming together."