John Clay

‘He was special.’ Jared Lorenzen’s former teammates celebrate ‘unique’ person, player.

Teammates, coaches, staff members, family, friends and fans came to northern Kentucky on Wednesday to pay their respects to the man even his church recognized as “The Hefty Lefty.”

Jared Lorenzen, the popular former Kentucky quarterback who passed away from health complications last week at the age of 38, was celebrated at St. Pius X Church in Edgewood as a person of “unique significance.”

You didn’t have to tell his former teammates and coaches that. How many 300-pound (or more) people can play quarterback, period? And how many can play the sport’s most demanding position well enough to be a four-year starter who broke school passing records before helping his team win a Super Bowl in the NFL.

In fact, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, whom Lorenzen backed up for three seasons, including that Super Bowl title year of 2007, attended Wednesday’s services despite the fact that it has been more than a decade since the two played together. That’s how much Lorenzen’s friendship meant to him.

Former University of Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen was laid to rest Wednesday in northern Kentucky. Lorenzen died last week at the age of 38 after battling a variety of health problems. Mark Cornelison Herald-Leader File Photo

Current UK coach Mark Stoops was among those on hand Wednesday, telling the media that he was open to the request made by current Wildcats’ quarterback Terry Wilson to wear Lorenzen’s No. 22 this coming season.

“He threw me my first touchdown,” said Keenan Burton, the former UK wide receiver who said he would remember Lorenzen most “as a person, the way that he treated people. He brought me in and helped me start my career. Most importantly, just the type of person that he is. This is a tough one. This is a really tough one. Too soon.”

What kind of player was Lorenzen?

“Electrifying. Fun,” Burton said. “He was everything wrapped in one, probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen and one of the biggest people I’ve ever seen at the position that he played. He was just so exciting to watch and you feed off of someone like that.”

Shane Boyd not only saw Lorenzen as a teammate but as someone competing for the same job. Both were quarterbacks. Both grew up in Kentucky. Lorenzen was the star quarterback at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas. Boyd was the star quarterback at Henry Clay High School in Lexington. They were just a year apart in age. And yet they were as close as brothers.

“Our competitive nature was super high; our love for Kentucky was super high,” said Boyd, who took time off from his quarterbacking duties with the Baltimore Brigade of the Arena Football League to attend Lorenzen’s memorial. “We were homegrown guys. We were were guys who loved the state of Kentucky, loved the state of Kentucky. The Kentucky people even watched us grow up. But along with competing, we were friends.”

So much so they rooted for and not against each other.

“We never undercut each other; we never talked bad about each other,” Boyd said. “When he was playing, I was the first one to greet him off the field. And when I was playing, he would do the same. We wanted nothing but the best for each other.”

Talk to anyone who knew Jared Lorenzen and they will say you couldn’t help but like Jared Lorenzen.

“Even aside from football,” said Boyd, “we loved being around each other because we just loved each other’s personalities.”

Jamon Brown, a former Louisville football player who competed fiercely against Kentucky as an archrival, made a donation to help with Lorenzen’s funeral expenses.

Dusty Bonner, the quarterback who transferred from UK to Valdosta State after losing his starting job to Lorenzen before the 2000 season, was in attendance Wednesday. So was Patrick Towles, another former UK quarterback who happened to follow Lorenzen at Highlands.

“He was just a wonderful man,” Towles said. “He was so much more than a great athlete and a great quarterback. He was a mentor to me and a friend. He’ll be missed.”

But not forgotten.

“He fought,” said Burton. “He fought to win. He fought for every yard, every inch. He was special.”

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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