LEXINGTON — He’s no longer No. 1 on the depth chart, or even sure exactly when he’ll be healthy enough to challenge for significant playing time.
Yet when practice ends, junior tight end Jordan Aumiller always tries to find time to go catch extra passes on his own.
He made a significant impact at Kentucky in 2010, his redshirt freshman season after he had been moved from linebacker the previous season. He became the starter, caught 18 passes despite being limited late in the season by shoulder injuries and was named a freshman All-American. However, after starting the opening game last season against Western Kentucky, Aumiller’s playing time steadily dwindled to the point he was only a special teams player late in the season.
Now as UK¿prepares to open the season Sunday at Louisville, he’s been limited by a nagging foot injury. Coach Joker Phillips said Monday he has plantar fascia and has been “struggling” for months with the problem.
“I have had this foot injury (a strained arch) for a little bit. I have just been trying to work day to day seeing how I feel. I¿have been limited here and there and trying to do what I¿can do,” the former Boyle County standout said. “It is just a little nagging injury that I¿have to keep getting treatment and working on. I¿just have to give it time to rest, get treatment and not being wearing and tearing on it all the time. We are just working on that right now and trying to get me ready to play.”
The soft-spoken Aumiller says it is “definitely” frustrating to not be healthy going into a season, especially when he thought he could again prove he deserved to be playing regularly.
“I have not been able to practice the way I wanted to. I¿have been limited a lot,” he said. “There is nothing I can do about it but try to get healthy. I can’t mope around or do whatever. I¿have been trying to help out Ronnie (Shields), Tyler (Robinson) and the other guys as much as I can when I¿am standing around watching. They have been doing well and they are going to do well this season.”
Aumiller, who says both his shoulders are “good” after offseason workouts, says any foot, ankle or leg injury makes it hard to compete.
“If you are not 100 percent, that impacts you so much maybe compared to a shoulder or upper body injury. It is a long season and I am getting healthy, so I am still excited about it.¿I am not getting down. It will be all right. I have to tell myself that,” Aumiller said.
Aumiller said UK’s offense will use the tight ends in different ways this year.
“I don’t think any offense ever talks about the tight ends too much. They are always kind of overshadowed, but we are working hard and I think we are going to do some good things,” he said. “All the tight ends have different strengths. Ronnie, we have more as a move guy and he has been doing well. He has grown a lot. He is still young. Tyler is becoming a veteran, he’s always playing hard and has his nose in there. He’s really tough.”
Aumiller smiles, and even laughs a bit, when asked about his role as one of the “old guys” on the team now that he’s in his fourth season.
“I¿am. It’s hard to believe I¿played two years ago and then kind of got set back last year. It’s really a motivation for me to get back out there. I¿have two years left, so there is no time to waste. I¿have to get ready and be a leader when I can,” Aumiller said.
What a great attitude. But how does he stay that optimistic after going from starter to barely playing and now being injured? Doesn’t he ever get despondent?
“You just have to stay humble. I have been fortunate enough to play in Division I, so there are all kinds of people that didn’t have this opportunity,” Aumiller said. “It is not all about me. I¿have to help myself and the tight ends and the offense out and stay positive. It is all about attitude. There is no point coming out here and being mad at the world or (tight ends) coach (Greg) Nord. You just have to make the most out of it and find anything to do to help the team that you can. If you do that, you don’t have time to mope or pout.”