Vaught's Views: Tamme back in action

February 22, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He still doesn't know exactly what caused the problem or even when it may flare up again. What Jacob Tamme does know, though, is that he again has been cleared to play football.

Tamme, the former three-sport standout at Boyle County High School, was impressing Kentucky coaches during his redshirt season when he started having pain in his back late in the season. It was similar to pain he had before the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star game in June that eventually went away.

"This time I got to a point in practice where I really couldn't do anything any more," Tamme said.

That came during UK's intrasquad scrimmage late in the season. It was the only time redshirt players really got to play, and Tamme was determined not to let a "little back pain" keep him out of action.

He caught a touchdown pass, but landed on the running track inside UK's indoor facility.


"After that, I couldn't walk," Tamme said. "I worried that might be it for me."

Next came an MRI and a bone scan, sure signs to Tamme that this was not just a muscle problem. Tests determined that he had spondylolysis, a common lower back injury in young athletes.

"It's kind of like a stress fracture on each side of the vertebrae," Tamme said.

That put him in a back brace for three months. He couldn't run. He couldn't lift weights. He couldn't work out with his teammates.

Now he's running again. The brace came off three weeks ago, and he should be close to full speed when spring practice starts in late March.

"There's really no way to know what caused the stress fracture in the first place," Tamme said. "It was just pressure over the years. It never healed completely.

"The doctors told me right away that other guys have had the same thing and played again. They let me know it was not the end of my career unless it just got worse and worse. Instead, it has only gotten better."

He says he doesn't risk further injury or damage by playing. He's doing all the flexibility work he can to take pressure off the lower back and counting days until spring practice starts. That's when he'll have his first chance to compete for playing time.

"It seems like I have not practiced forever," Tamme said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there and catching balls, hitting people and just running around. It used to be something I did all the time and took for granted. But at least I learned a lot just by watching guys like (Derek) Abney and (Tommy) Cook."

Hudson noticed Tamme

Kentucky offensive coordinator Ron Hudson noticed Tamme often before he was hurt. He liked his size and tendency to catch every ball that came his way just as he did when he was helping the Rebels win state championships.

"He's got Velcro for hands," Hudson said. "He can really catch the ball. He's fallen behind a little bit with his injury, but he can still be a factor next year because he's tall and has good size, things we can't coach. He's also a good character kid and does things he's supposed to do. If he's healthy, and apparently he is, he's going to help us."

That was the idea when Tamme was redshirted last season. He says he's gotten stronger. His weight is up to about 220 pounds - an increase of about 15 pounds since his arrival on campus.

Tamme also believes UK's receiving corps will have more depth this season despite the graduation of Abney and Chris Bernard. He says junior college transfer Scott Mitchell will help as will John Logan, another redshirt freshman like him.

"There will be a lot of guys competing for playing time. We will be pushing each other, and we can all do things that should help the team," Tamme said. "Really, our whole team has had great winter workouts. The older guys say there has been so much more enthusiasm than even a year ago."

Tamme is just enthusiastic about playing. He won't even rule out a future move to tight end if that would benefit the team.

"The coaches always kid around with me about that move," Tamme said. "I have put on some weight, but not enough to be a tight end yet.

"Maybe in a couple of years when I'm a junior, that could be a possibility. I am still a receiver now. I don't care if I ever catch a ball as long as we win. I just want to stay healthy, play and help us win."

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