Freshman DB glad to be a Cat at last


August 07, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - No one was happier to be reporting for preseason football camp at Kentucky than Andre Jones.

The freshman defensive back originally signed with the Wildcats in February 2002. He was a highly-sought after prospect, one with offers from schools like Auburn and LSU when he decided to leave Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and play for the Wildcats.

However, he had one problem. He couldn't pass the exit test re-quired to graduate from Florida public schools.

"I had a 3.5 grade-point average. I passed my ACT and SAT tests. But I couldn't pass the exit test," Jones said Wednesday when UK players reported to prepare for today's first practice. "I was faithfully committed to Kentucky, but I couldn't pass the test. It was frustrating."

He eventually passed the test about five months ago. Still, no schools called. Instead, he planned to attend East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss. He had taken summer school classes and run AAU track to stay in shape for the 2003 season. He had also given up hope of playing Division I football this year.


"Not passing the test kept coaches away from me," Jones said.

Then Kentucky coach Rich Brooks somehow managed to get Jones on his cell phone in Mississippi.

"Usually my phone doesn't even work there," Jones said. "I was surprised when my phone started buzzing, and even more surprised when I saw it was someone from Kentucky. Then I found out it was coach (Rich) Brooks. I fell to my knees because I was so shocked. He told me I could have my scholarship back.

"I really appreciate what the former Kentucky staff did for me. They tried to get me here, but it didn't work. I had really lost hope on ever getting to play for Kentucky. I didn't think coach Brooks even knew me.

"Then I remembered that I was listed in the media guide at one time, and I hoped he might one day notice that. But I never thought about being here this year."

Jones didn't get here until Tuesday night, but he insisted his late arrival or not playing football would not keep him from making an impact this season. He was also a talented receiver in high school, but Brooks is counting on his speed and athleticism to help Kentucky's secondary.

"I have not lost any speed. I might be hungrier to play than anyone here," Jones said. "Not getting to play last year will not be a problem. I believe everything happens for a reason and there's a reason for me being back here now. It is to help this team win this year."

Jones was wearing a Kentucky medallion on a silver chain around his neck. He said he purchased the medallion during his senior year of high school and often looked at it for motivation the last 18 months.

"I never took it off except to clean it," Jones said. "Kentucky is where I've always wanted to be, and I'm just thankful that I am finally here."

New look: Center Nick Seitze also added a new look over the summer. He had an outline of the state of Texas tattooed on his chest. Inside the state outline is a Texas steer.

"It took about three hours to get it done. I just watched TV and would grit my teeth when it hurt," Seitze said. "But the one on my shoulder took about 10 hours, so this wasn't that bad."

Seitze, a Texas native, said he got the tattoo to show his state pride.

"I'm a Texan. How can you not have pride in your state?" Seitze said.

Hall in SI: Offensive tackle Antonio Hall will be featured in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated. He is one of five offensive linemen profiled in a story titled, "The Smartest Players in Football."

Hall said he was just glad to be included.

"Any publicity, for me and Kentucky, is good," he said.

Lorenzen named: Senior quarterback Jared Lorenzen is on the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award preseason watch list for the third straight year. Twice before he's been a semifinalist for the award given to the nation's top college quarterback.

Other Wildcats on preseason watch lists are Hall for the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award and Seitze for the Dave Rimington Trophy.

Fitch picked: Kentucky senior guard Gerald Fitch is one of 50 basketball players nominated for the John R. Wooden Award. He's one of only four Southeastern Conference players named on the preseason list for the award that goes to the nation's top player.

Central Kentucky News Articles