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Vaught's Views: Haydock happy to be a Cat

August 29, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Playing in the Kentucky-Louisville game was something linebacker Justin Haydock always wanted to do.

It's just that UK's starting inside linebacker dreamed of playing for the Cardinals, not Kentucky.

"I doubt that many of the guys on our team know that," said Haydock. "A couple do, but not many. That's not a subject that comes up often."

Yet it's easy to understand how this blue-blooded linebacker once thought Louisville was the No. 1 team in the Bluegrass.

His father, Robert Haydock, played football for the Cardinals. Justin Haydock was a two-year starter at Louisville St. Xavier and was the most valuable player in the 1999 state championship game when he made 18 tackles in a win over Bryan Station. That year he had 124 tackles and five interceptions, including one he returned for a score.

Still, Louisville showed no interest. Kentucky wasn't ready to offer a scholarship, but former UK coach Hal Mumme did give him a chance to join the Cats as a walk-on player.

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That meant he spent 2000 on the junior varsity team in what turned out to be Mumme's last year. He was redshirted in 2001, but realized that season he could eventually earn playing time for new defensive coordinator Mike Major. That realization came true last season when he got in 10 games and made 25 tackles, including a career-high five against Georgia.

Haydock was also more than willing to sacrifice his body on the kickoff return team blocking for Derek Abney, who returned three kickoffs for scores in 2002.

He's scheduled to be a starting inside linebacker Sunday

Sunday he's scheduled to be a starting inside linebacker against Louisville, which will be a far bigger thrill than earning a scholarship at UK was.

"It is totally a dream come true to play in this game," Haydock said. "I have been a Louisville fan almost my whole life. I grew up a Louisville fan. But that all changed when I had a chance to come here.

"Now going from a walk-on to being a significant contributor to a starter this year is almost too much to believe. I had a goal in mind and worked for it every day, but I was never sure it would all happen this way."

He had to have some doubts about his future on the team when he was a relatively unknown walk-on player his first year or even his second year when he made the scout team. But he could only watch as scholarship players got rent checks and meal money while he had to rely on his own money for rent and food.

He might not be the only former walk-on player starting Sunday, either. If his back allows him to play, Deion Holts is also scheduled to be a starter at outside linebacker.

Some could interpret having two former walk-ons starting at linebacker as a major liability. Haydock says that would be a big mistake.

"We've done what everybody else has done. We've just worked our way up and now it is our chance to play," Haydock said. "I think our whole defense will be fine. Everybody is grasping what coach (Mike) Archer wants. We just have to make sure we follow the game plan."

A more aggressive defense

Haydock says fans at Commonwealth Stadium, as well as those watching on ESPN2, should see a more aggressive defense. Archer, UK's new defensive coordinator, has emphasized running to the ball on every play.

"Last year they always wanted us to run, but they have been on us even more about that this year," Haydock said.

Haydock said he was never intimidated by Archer, who spent the last eight years coaching linebackers with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"He knows what he's talking about. The whole staff is intense, but we all know if we listen, we're going to be good," Haydock said.

Good enough to beat Louisville for a second straight year?

"I sure hope so because not only would it be a dream come true, it would sure make my life a lot easier when I do go back home," Haydock said.



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