Wildcats show more dedication

July 29, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

HOOVER, Ala. - Kentucky's players want to win.

That became clear to defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns during UK's summer workouts.

"It's been one of the best summers since I have been here," said Burns. "The guys have put in countless hours of work. As a whole, the effort has been a lot better than it has been before. Guys have been willing to come in and work hard to try and get better. Now it is time to turn the effort into results in (preseason) camp and then carry it over to the games."

Burns and quarterback Shane Boyd represented Kentucky here Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Burns, an All-SEC player last year and preseason all-conference choice this year, dazzled the Media Day crowd with his white suit, pink shoes and matching shirt and tie.

"I just got the shoes because they match the outfit," Burns said. "Every interview I've done, I have got questions about the shoes. I guess people will remember them."


Boyd thought he was ready to make a big impression with his coat, blue pants, blue shoes and jewelry. "But as soon as I saw him, I knew he was in another league," Boyd said.

And the pink shoes?

"Maybe that's why they call him Sweet," Boyd said.

However, when given the chance, both Wildcats emphasized that they expected a better season than last year when UK went 4-8. Coach Rich Brooks had the same message.

"Our year could got a lot of different directions. I think we are headed up the ladder," Brooks said. "We have to turn fourth-quarter losses into fourth-quarter wins."

He noted how UK "gave away the game" to Florida, missed opportunities to win in a seven-overtime loss to Arkansas, and had a chance to build a big early lead over Tennessee. He even noted that UK "stayed in touch" with Georgia for three quarters before fading.

"Hopefully we will be good enough to overcome bad calls or whatever and still win in the fourth quarter this year," Brooks said. "Our defense will be able to substitute more early and stay fresh so that we don't give up those big plays in the fourth quarter. We'll be bigger, stronger and faster at every position on defense."

Players understood it was up to them to work harder

Burns said players understood this summer it was up to them to work harder. Boyd often got up at 6 a.m. to run with receivers who were late for class or a workout session. Burns said the offensive line and secondary worked harder than any other units.

Burns said he was amazed at how hard safety Muhammad Abdullah and cornerbacks Earven Flowers and Warren Wilson had worked.

"You should see the strides they made this summer," Burns said. "They were also running or watching film. They've done it before, but not as much as this year. They've learned what it takes to reach that next level.

"It's just players wanting to win and get better. We're showing the dedication it takes to get better and not wanting to be a loser. That's all it boils down to. How many teams do you know that are winners that don't work hard in the offseason? None."

Boyd did his part by working to develop a slimmer, more muscular body. Even though he spent part of the spring pitching for the baseball team, he managed to drop weight and also added strength this summer.

"I've got my body fat down to be more athletic," Boyd said. "You can't just quit eating. I did a lot of running and working out. I watched what I ate. Diet plays a big part in what you look like, but you also have to want to change."

What Kentucky wants to change more than anything, though, is the fourth-quarter heartache that has become an unwanted part of UK football history.

"Last year the fourth quarter killed us," Burns said. "We have to change that. We have to play four good quarters of football. I think that has been on everyone's mind all summer. Losing hurts. It gets old. But I think we understand now that it takes more than just wanting to win. You have to work to win and this summer I think we've really done that."

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