Two-sport star Dewalt picks Kentucky

January 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks made it known that he wanted to add bigger, taller receivers to his football team. Now he has landed one of the state's best receivers for his 2004 recruiting class.

Warren Central receiver Lonnell Dewalt verbally committed to the Wildcats Tuesday, just two days after his official visit to Kentucky. He was ranked as the nation's 62nd-best receiver by after catching 43 passes for 851 yardsd and 10 scores last season.

Dewalt had been considering offers from Auburn, Louisville, Michigan and others. However, he apparently had UK No. 1 on his list all season.

"I've known I wanted to be at Kentucky for a long time, but I didn't say anything because I wanted to enjoy the recruiting experience," Dewalt said. "But it was starting to get a little stressful. Coaches were calling. I just decided there was no use waiting any longer to make my decision known."


Kentucky had several things that helped land the 6-7, 215-pound Dewalt, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, bench-presses 250 pounds and has a 38-inch vertical jump.

First, defensive end Deion Holts is a former teammate of Dewalt's at Warren Central in Bowling Green.

"I think having Deion there to tell him things were going the right way helped," Warren Central coach Rick Wood said.

Second, UK's academic center for athletes impressed both Dewalt and his parents.

"The coaches told me that it was important to have something to fall back on if football didn't work out. That made a lot of sense to me, and they have a good place to help you academically," Dewalt said.

Third, Dewalt likes the UK coaches, especially recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips, who will also be his position coach.

"Coach Brooks is an experienced coach and I just liked what he said," Dewalt said.

"He was comfortable with everything, including Lexington. He's played in two state basketball tournaments there and also ran in the state track meet there last year. He likes the city," Wood said.

Fourth, UK basketball coach Tubby Smith confirmed face-to-face to Dewalt that he could join the basketball team after football ended. Dewalt is ranked as one of the state's top basketball players and has said he wanted a chance to play both sports in college.

Kentucky assistant coach David Hobbs watched Dewalt play last summer and immediately made it known to Dewalt's high school football coach that he would be a welcome addition on the basketball team.

"I got to talk to coach Smith, and he seemed excited about having me play. That's what I wanted to hear," Dewalt said.

"I don't know of any two-sport athlete in the state who has his body and ability," Wood said. "He's got a chance to play at the next level (NFL). You just won't believe how fast he is and how good his hands are, but he's a physical player, too. He will knock you on your butt."

Dewalt said he will not take scheduled visits to Louisville and Auburn.

"I've made my decision. There's no reason for me to go anywhere else," Dewalt said.

Mr. Wildcat: Senior wide receiver Chris Bernard has been named Mr. Wildcat by the UK football team as the overall champion of strength, speed and power for the 2003 season.

Bernard caught 33 passes for 532 yards, an average of 16.1 yards per catch, and five touchdowns last season. He led the team in yards per reception and tied for the team lead in touchdown catches.

He's the first wide receiver to be named Mr. Wildcat in the 22-year history of the award.

Honored: Receiver Derek Abney, offensive tackle Antonio Hall and defensive end Vincent Burns have been named to the All-Southeastern Conference team by the Birmingham News. Abney and Hall were first team picks, while Burns was named to the second team.

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