Vaught's Views: Brooks supports prep football

August 16, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If Kentucky coach Rich Brooks had declined the invitation to speak at the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic dinner, it would have been understandable.

If Brooks had accepted the invitation but stayed only long enough to speak before heading back to Lexington, it would have been understandable.

Instead, Brooks not only came here to speak Sunday night, but he stayed to hear every word high school coaches and players as well as others had to say.

"I just think it's important to support high school football," said Brooks.

The Bob Allen Pigskin Classic Saturday at Admiral Stadium will pair Manual against Dunbar in a matchup of Class AAAA powers at 5:30 p.m. and Garrard County against host Danville at 8. Sunday's dinner at Danville Country Club sponsored by Arby's was a chance for coaches to talk about their teams and thank the various bowl sponsors. It brought various media members such as WLAP Radio's Jim Tirey, WHAS Radio's Tony Cruise, UK network play-by-play announcer Tom Leach, recruiting analyst Jeff Drummond, and WLEX-TV sports anchors Ryan Lemond and Mary Jo Perino, here to also promote high school football.


Brooks knew it was a chance he couldn't pass up even if it meant having to leave Sunday's practice a little early.

"I am tremendously impressed with high school football in this state," Brooks said. "This is Title Town. How often do two schools win as many titles in the same town as they (Danville and Boyle County) have? That impresses me."

Brooks said one reason he's excited about Kentucky's future is the caliber of high school talent in Kentucky.

"You are going to see on the field for us a lot of young, in-state players," Brooks said. "A lot are going to have a big impact. That shows how good high school football in Kentucky is that a player can come straight out of high school and help us in the league we play in right away."

Drummond verified Brooks' belief that high school football in Kentucky is improving. He noted that 10 years ago the state annually produced 12 to 18 Division I football players. The last two years Kentucky has averaged 27 Division I signees.

"Kentucky was never really thought of as a region that produced a lot of football talent," Drummond said. "This has become more of a hotbed for student-athletes being recruited at the next level. In the future I think you are going to see in-state college programs get even better because of the athletes in state and it is events like this that have helped football improve in the state."

He wanted to make sure coaches, players know he's interested

Brooks understands that concept. That's why he wanted to make sure he let coaches and players at Danville, Garrard, Manual and Dunbar know he's interested in their success.

Former Manual standout Keenan Burton could be UK's best receiver this year. Former Danville standout Andrew Hopewell was UK's special teams ace last year and is hoping for a chance to play at running back this year. Brooks is also counting on Title Town standouts Jacob Tamme (receiver) and Taylor Begley (placekicker) of Boyle County for big contributions this year.

Several players at the dinner, including Danville running back Kelvin Turner, are potential Division I recruits, too.

Still, Danville coach Sam Harp understood the sacrifice Brooks made to be here.

"To leave a practice early is unheard of for a Division I coach," Harp said. "For a guy to do that who has also coached for the Rams and Falcons (in the NFL) is even more unheard of.

"Coming here not only says something about our bowl, but it also says a lot about the importance he feels about high school football in Kentucky."

Perino even admitted to the crowd of about 150 people that she had more passion for high school football than UK football, then apologized to Brooks for feeling that way.

"We don't win as much as the guys in this room," Brooks joked back.

But Brooks hopes the winning is coming. He likes this year's recruiting class. He likes the way his team has bonded and noted that improved teamwork could pay big dividends for the Wildcats this season.

However, the biggest dividend for Kentucky's success will come from bowl games like the ones here. Brooks knows that and understands when he gets a chance to help show his support of high school football, he has to do it.

"I want to wish all of you luck and hope you get a chance on Saturdays to get to our games," Brooks told the players from each team here Sunday night. "We're going to be watching your games with the future of University of Kentucky football in mind."

The best part for Brooks, though, is that he proved by coming here Sunday night that he means exactly that.

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