John Clay

John Clay: A small but close Kentucky football senior class wants to leave a legacy

Kentucky defensive end Farrington Huguenin (91) sacked Charlotte quarterback Brooks Barden (12) in the second quarter of the Charlotte at Kentucky football game at Commonwealth Stadium Lexington, Ky, on Nov. 21, 2015.
Kentucky defensive end Farrington Huguenin (91) sacked Charlotte quarterback Brooks Barden (12) in the second quarter of the Charlotte at Kentucky football game at Commonwealth Stadium Lexington, Ky, on Nov. 21, 2015. Lexington Herald-Leader

There are not many of them left.

When Kentucky plays Louisville on Saturday, 17 seniors — plus two juniors bypassing their senior seasons — will be playing their final game at Commonwealth Stadium and possibly their final game of college football.

Only 11 of the 17 seniors arrived under the previous head coach, Joker Phillips, before Mark Stoops took over as Kentucky’s head coach in 2013.

“We got whittled out pretty good,” senior offensive guard Zach West said this week. “Not a bad thing. But there’s only a few of us left.”

Some exited on their own. Some were encouraged to seek other places in which they might find more playing time. Some stayed a season or two before departing. And some have stuck it out to make it to Saturday when there is (a) the urgency of UK needing a win to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2010 and (b) the usual emotion of Senior Day.

“It’s my last go-around here at Commonwealth,” West said. “I feel like I’ve been here for a long time. I got to live a dream for a short amount of time, so there’s going to be a lot of emotion to it.”

“I’ve seen it three years,” said senior linebacker Khalid Henderson out of Mableton, Ga. “I’ve seen guys come out there with their families. Now it’s my turn. It’s kind of weird. I’ll deal with that when it comes.”

This senior class has had a lot to deal with, most notably the biggest challenge a college athlete can experience, a coaching change.

“Those guys never asked for any change,” said Stoops this week. “But they’ve embraced us and our staff since we’ve been here and tried to do their part in changing the culture and having a winning attitude and a winning environment. They’ve been very good that way.”

Not that they have forgotten the head coach and staff who brought them to UK in the first place.

“I just know that when Joker was here he was a really quality guy and he tried to make us into outstanding men as well as football players,” said senior offensive tackle Jordan Swindle, who came to UK from St. Johns, Fla. “I was sad to see him go, but when Coach Stoops came in and his staff it was awesome for us as well.”

“It has definitely been a trial,” said senior defensive tackle Farrington Huguenin out of Columbia, S.C. “It’s definitely been a long road but now that we’re toward the end of it, it’s been good.”

To a man, the seniors say that long road has brought this class close together.

“Just the other day we were looking at pictures of when we first came in and all that,” Huguenin said. “It’s definitely a close group. That’s what you do in football, you form a brotherhood.”

How have things changed for that brotherhood?

“You’ve got guys on this team that believe they can win games. That wasn’t the case when we first got here,” said West, who played at Lexington Christian Academy. “When Coach Stoops came in and he asked how many guys think we can win the SEC championship, I bet maybe a handful of guys raised their hands. That’s different now. Now the whole room is going to raise their hands. That’s the major difference.”

Now that class wants to accomplish something the program hasn’t accomplished in five years.

“Hopefully, (we’ll be) the class that turned the tide,” Swindle said. “If we win this last game, when we win this last game, we’re the class that turned it around and went to a bowl game and led classes below us to keep that legacy going.”

“You want to leave a mark,” Henderson said, adding, “We all have a good connection. Even though we didn’t come up with the Stoops era, we understand that we’re part of his organization now and we want to see it build and grow so we can come back and be a part of the family.”

UK football seniors

Daron Blaylock, LB, Marietta, Ga.

x-Zack Blaylock, S, Marietta Ga.

Glenn Faulker, S, East St. Louis, Ill.

Ryan Flannigan, LB, Missouri City, Texas

Josh Forrest, LB, Paducah, Ky.

Landon Foster, P, Franklin, Tenn.

Khalid Henderson, LB, Mableton, Ga.

Joey Herrick, WR, Dripping Springs, Texas

Farrington Huguenin, DE, Columbia, S.C.

Cory Johnson, DT, Columbia, S.C.

Jabari Johson, DE/LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.

Melvin Lewis, DT, Compton, Calif.

Kelly Mason, LS, Rockton, Ill.

Cody Quinn, CB, Middletown, Ohio

A.J. Stamps, S, Vicksburg, Miss.

x-Max Strong, K, Louisville, Ky.

Jordan Swindle, OT, St. Johns, Fla.

Fred Tiller, CB, Homerville, Ga.

Zach West, OG, Lexington, Ky.

x-Junior who is foregoing his senior season

Kentucky-Louisville series

UK leads 14-13 all time; U of L leads modern-day series 13-8

Date

Location

Winner

Score

Oct. 26, 1912

Lexington

Kentucky

41-0

Nov. 22, 1913

Louisville

Kentucky

20-0

Nov. 14, 1914

Lexington

Kentucky

42-0

Nov. 6, 1915

Louisville

Kentucky

15-0

Oct. 14, 1922

Lexington

Kentucky

73-0

Oct. 4, 1924

Lexington

Kentucky

29-0

Sept. 3, 1994

Lexington

Kentucky

20-14

Sept. 2, 1995

Lexington

Louisville

13-10

Aug. 31, 1996

Lexington

Louisville

38-14

Aug. 30, 1997

Lexington

Kentucky

38-24

Sept. 5, 1998

Louisville

Kentucky

68-34

Sept. 4, 1999

Lexington

Louisville

56-28

Sept, 2, 2000

Louisville

Louisville

40-34

Sept. 1, 2001

Lexington

Louisville

36-10

Sept. 1, 2002

Louisville

Kentucky

22-17

Aug. 31, 2003

Lexington

Louisville

40-24

Sept. 5, 2004

Louisville

Louisville

28-0

Sept. 4, 2005

Lexington

Louisville

31-24

Sept. 3, 2006

Louisville

Louisville

59-28

Sept. 15, 2007

Lexington

Kentucky

40-34

Aug. 31, 2008

Louisville

Kentucky

27-2

Sept. 19, 2009

Lexington

Kentucky

31-27

Sept. 4, 2010

Louisville

Kentucky

23-16

Sept. 17, 2011

Lexington

Louisville

24-17

Sept. 2, 2012

Louisville

Louisville

32-14

Sept. 14, 2013

Lexington

Louisville

27-13

Nov. 29, 2014

Louisville

Louisville

44-40

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