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Rollins' play not unnoticed by teammates

August 12, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

LEXINGTON - Some of the players who make up the offensive line have become bona fide celebrities during their years at Kentucky. Jason Rollins isn't one of them.

While teammates Antonio Hall and Nick Seitze are often in the spotlight, little is heard from Rollins, who enters his third season as the Wildcats' starter at left guard.

But Rollins isn't going unnoticed at Kentucky. The junior has won the respect and admiration of teammates and coaches alike with his consistent play.

"People don't realize it, but I think he's one of the best offensive linemen we have right now," Seitze said. "With 'Tone and I getting a lot of the recognition, he's probably in the backwoods.

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"But you look at his attitude and his work ethic, ... the way he conducts himself on and off the field and in the weight room, if everybody worked as hard as he did, we'd be a great team."

Rollins has all the characteristics of a blue-collar lineman, the kind of player who punches in every day, keeps his mouth shut and his head down and gets the job done.

And he said he doesn't mind that other linemen might get more face time.

"That's not what I'm out there for," Rollins said. "I just come in here every day and work hard and try to give my team the best of my ability. I don't mind that at all."

Respect reflected in election to team council

The respect of Rollins' peers is reflected in his election to the Wildcats' team council, a group of leaders that represents the team in regular meetings with coach Rich Brooks.

And Kentucky's new coaches have raved about Rollins' play since they got their first looks at him on film last winter and in practice this spring.

Rollins led the Wildcats in knockdown blocks last season in his first full year as a starter - he started the last six games of his freshman year - as he helped open holes for SEC rushing leader Artose Pinner.

He said he is stronger than ever this season. He weighs in at about 295 pounds, 10 to 15 more than his playing weight last fall.

"He's definitely one of the strongest guys on our team, and he has a tremendous work ethic," Hall said.

But Rollins said the mental workout he puts himself through is just as important as the weight work.

"I've been trying to study a lot of game film to take that next step, trying to take my game to the next level," he said.

Studying nuances of new offense

Rollins said he has done a great deal of study on the nuances of Kentucky's new offense, and he likes what he has learned.

"There's so many things we can do off of it," he said. "It seems like to me it's going to be an excellent offense."

It's the third one Rollins has learned since Hal Mumme's staff recruited him to Kentucky out of Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 2000.

"You definitely had to keep your head in the playbook quite a bit," he said. "I don't have any regrets, and I'm really excited about our new coaches."

Rollins said he's also proud to be part of a close-knit group of linemen that figures to be one of the Wildcats' strongest units this season.

"They're all a great group of guys to play with, and off the field we hang out a lot, too," he said.

Rollins said some of his favorite times are in the linemen's regular Thursday night outings at which they meet to eat at a restaurant or one of their homes.

Rollins wouldn't be one of the first faces UK fans would recognize when the linemen gather around the buffet, but his days of being anonymous may be nearing an end.

"I think he is kind of a sleeper right now," Hall said. "I think this will be a breakout year for Jason."

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