UK Football: Former Wildcat players excited about hiring of Mark Stoops as new football coach
Denver tight end Jacob Tamme, a former Boyle County and Kentucky star, said he thinks new UK football coach Mark Stoops can win back the Kentucky fanbase which seemed to bail on the Wildcats last season. (AP Photo / December 2, 2012)
“It’s just amazing. I can’t wait to see who the offensive coordinator is going to be,” said Abney, who lives in South Carolina now.
“This state loves football. I believe the whole place is ready to explode with excitement. The journey to a championship is the most fun,” said Burgin’s David Hopewell, a starter on UK’s 1976 Peach Bowl team and 1977 team that finished 10-1 and won the Southeastern Conference title.
Boyle County’s Jacob Tamme, now a tight end with the Denver Broncos, says he “can’t help but bleed blue” but he knew a change had to be made and Stoops has “excited a lot of people.”
Former UK¿quarterback Freddie Maggard of Lawrenceburg is excited, too, but also expressed appreciation to Joker Phillips and his wife for their “love and dedication to Kentucky” and noted that they have been “avid supporters” of the Kentucky National Guard and the state’s military.
“For that and many other reasons, I’d hope as Kentucky fans we don’t forget their 20 plus years dedicated to Wildcat football and continue to show our appreciation and support for their future endeavors,” Maggard said. “Also I’d like to wish his staff the best and pray for them to land on their feet and continue to lead young men on the football field. That’s the tough part about the business of college football. But I am definitely excited about Mark Stoops.”
So is former UK¿fullback Andy Murray, who lives in northern Kentucky.
“I love the fact that we have a hard-nosed defensive minded coach. Football is about attitude … and defensive guys bring attitude,” Murray said.
The four players responded to various questions about the hiring of Stoops, who will be formally introduced at a press conference this afternoon, and what impact it will have on UK¿football.
Question: Has the hiring of Mark Stoops changed your enthusiasm about Kentucky football?
Tamme: “My enthusiasm wasn't what needed to be changed — I can't help but bleed blue! Honestly it has been a tough situation for me because I have a ton of respect for several coaches on the departing staff. But change was needed and I think this hire has excited a lot of people that became disengaged over the course of this past season.”
Hopewell: “Let me say 1st our hearts bleed Big Blue. My family loves coach Phillips and Leslie and all they meant to this program. We all hate things did not work out for him and we want to thank him for everything he has done for us. Thank you coach Phillips.
“Coach Stoops brings name recognition for sure. We have all heard of him and his family for a long time. I can say those close to me have already circled the spring game and are ready to travel to all the away games, too. Listening to the radio as things unfolded I had chill bumps as I read the release on the UK website and I cannot wait to hear the press conference Sunday. All the talk was positive as it should be at this time.”
Murray: “Without a doubt. He is connected in Ohio. This is the largest miss in Kentucky football history. We have more players per year in Cincy alone than the entire state of Kentucky and we have never had success recruiting there.”
Maggard: “My enthusiasm and passion for UK football stays pretty high, but coach Stoops brings a change that is exciting for UK fans. My family attends games at Commonwealth Stadium thru good and bad, so we’ll be there as we always have been. Just may have some more friends ask if they can tag along. Coach Stoops’ name and track record as a coordinator and recruiter brings on thoughts of competing in the SEC East. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
Abney: “I’ve surprised myself in that I’m more enthusiastic than I would have been with an offensive-minded coach. That is because I have yet to hear a negative thing about Mark Stoops, save he has no head coaching experience. Results will tell the whole story but, preliminarily, I really like the Mark Stoops choice.”
Question: Do you think he can immediately win the overall UK fan base back that seemed to bail out this year?
Tamme:¿“I think he can, yes. People in this state want to see UK football on the map. We've been there, and it wasn't that long ago we beat number one LSU and had ‘College GameDay’ in Lexington. Those are the types of things we have to get back to. I think fans are excited about the hire because it brings a sense of expectation back to the program.”
Hopewell: “Oh, no doubt about that. Coach Stoops has a good resume. He deserves a chance to run his own show based on that. I think UK and (athletics director) Mitch Barnhart naming a leader for our program is a big hit. Knowing who is in charge brings all the excitement back. It has been good to hear and read all the news about UK football with the tough year we have had. How crazy will it get when we win the SEC!”