Fontaine adjusts to UK

October 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Raymond Fontaine had such an unlikely path to becoming a starting linebacker at Kentucky that he wasn't about to let losing that No. 1 position cause a major detour in his career.

"You just accept what the coaches say and work harder to get the position back. If you play well, everything takes care of itself," said Fontaine.

He'll be back in the starting lineup Saturday when UK hosts Ohio University because Deion Holts has been suspended for violating a team rule and Durrell White, the other starter last week at South Carolina, is still questionable because of an ankle injury.

Fontaine has been hobbled with a foot injury, but he didn't let that impact his play in UK's last game at South Carolina when White was injured early in the first quarter. He made four tackles in the 27-21 loss.


"I had to play and fortunately, I was able to play without injuring my foot any more," Fontaine said.

Fontaine's maturity is no surprise considering the route he took to Kentucky.

"I took two years off from school after high school. I was working and playing football for a city team in Ottawa," Fontaine said. "I was already 20 years old and did not plan to go to college.

"I already had a really good job with the government back home (in Canada). I was making good money. There were a lot of times I was thinking there was no way I would ever go back to school. I just kept playing for the city team, and was enjoying it."

Fontaine said the city league was "very physical" and had "some hot-heads" that were not overly coachable. However, he said the talent level was also better than most would realize.

He had two more years he could have played in the league when he decided to attend a combine in Montreal that former UK special teams coach Mark Nelson was watching to evaluate talent.

Nelson liked Fontaine's speed and height. He was thin, but Nelson figured he could add weight and find a place to play on UK's defense. Fontaine accepted the scholarship offer and then went about adjusting to life in the Bluegrass, 15 hours away from home.

His parents are Haitians. His mother spoke only French, and he didn't learn English until he was in the fourth grade. He also "dabbles" in Spanish.

He attended an English-speaking high school, but still converses with UK teammate Alexis Bwenge, another Canadian, mainly in French.

"Not all the players like that because they sometimes think we are talking about them," Fontaine said. "It's just that we feel more comfortable speaking French."

Fontaine never felt totally comfortable playing defensive end in 2002 when he made 25 tackles in 10 games. He jumped at the chance to move to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Mike Archer's 3-4 scheme.

"I knew my athleticism would be a better fit at linebacker," Fontaine said. "I like what we are doing. I just have to keep absorbing what coach Archer teaches me, and it might eventually help me get a shot at playing in the NFL."

However, he knows he better have a backup plan in two years when his football eligibility ends. He's interested in marketing and communications.

"Lexington is a good place for studying. I try to keep my nose in the books and keep my grades up. I really want to get my degree," Fontaine said. "I realize now that everyone needs to have a chance to go to college.

"You get an education, which you can use in the future, and you get to make new friends. The college experience is a great thing."

Unwanted criticism: ESPN analyst Lee Corso, a former head coach at Louisville and Indiana, criticized Kentucky's offense for being too complicated during the telecast of the UK-South Carolina game. He questioned whether UK was using too many formations and shifting too often.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks didn't like the criticism.

"There is a reason Corso is on TV doing his commentary. He doesn't have to answer to anybody anymore," Brooks said. "He can have those kind of opinions, but how many seasons has he been out of it as a coach now?"

Corso also implied that backup Shane Boyd was a better fit at quarterback in UK's offense than starter Jared Lorenzen. He made that observation before Boyd led Kentucky to two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Brooks said earlier this week that when UK does run the option, Lorenzen executes it as well as Boyd, even though he's not as good a runner as Boyd. He said the reason UK is not throwing the ball down the field more has more to do with protection and not getting enough first downs to keep drives alive and not because Lorenzen doesn't fit the offense.

"Jared Lorenzen is still one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country in the passing game, and it's not like we have built the offense around the option," Brooks said. "We would like to throw the football better. We are not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole."

Playing time: Brooks said if UK doesn't start finding a way to win, he may make personnel changes and give less talented players a chance to see if they can execute better than players who have been starting.

"At some point it comes down to giving someone else a chance to play," Brooks said. "You try to put your best players on the field athletically that you have. But if you have a guy making too many mistakes, you may need to give a guy not as gifted a chance to play and see if he doesn't make the mistakes that the more talented player keeps making."

Central Kentucky News Articles