College Football Preview: Tamme, Begley, Hopewell were always UK fans

August 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Since he's been a life-long University of Kentucky fan, Jacob Tamme always paid close attention to who was playing for the Wildcats.

When he watched Danville's Chase Harp and Josh Jaggers as well as Boyle County's Neal Brown join the Wildcats, he realized that a player from here could realistically dream of being a Wildcat. That became even clearer when former Boyle teammate Taylor Begley and former Danville rival Andrew Hopewell also went to Kentucky.

"Kentucky has been in my blood since I was a day old," said Tamme, a redshirt freshman receiver. "I have always loved UK. All those guys coming here was pretty awesome and to me, it was a sign it could be done."

Tamme fulfilled his dream of playing for Kentucky after a prep career at Boyle that included four straight state championships, 73 wins in 75 games and numerous All-State honors.


Now Tamme is part of a Title Town trio preparing for Kentucky's opener Sept. 5 at Louisville.

For Hopewell, the move from Danville to Wildcat Country was an easy transition. His father, Dave, was a starting center on UK's 1976 Peach Bowl team and his brother, Dan, was a receiver there when he decided three years ago to go to Kentucky.

"Our area just bleeds blue," Hopewell, a junior running back, said. "A lot of us grew up Kentucky fans. My parents certainly were. Taylor's were and I know Jacob's were huge UK fans. I think I went to every single home game when I was little. I can remember thinking about Chase, Josh and Dan being at UK and I always kind of strived to attain that goal, too.

"I don't think there was much pressure from my friends for me to go to Kentucky. Some of my parents' friends would ask if I was going to Kentucky, but my parents never really nudged me that way. Some family members did think it would be cool if I went to play with Dan, but my parents and real high school friends never pressured me. Still, I knew a lot of them wanted me to go there."

Begley, a junior placekicker, said he followed UK more than any other college team because Brown and Harp were playing there.

"But about everybody I talked to around our area wanted me to go to UK. They don't want to see you go anywhere else because they want to follow your career," Begley said. "Around our area, especially before (former Boyle County players) Bobby and Travis (Leffew) went to Louisville, everything was blue and white. Even with them being at Louisville, this area is still blue."

What they do at Kentucky can impact younger players here

All three realize what they do at Kentucky can impact numerous younger players here and perhaps continue the Title Town pipeline to Kentucky.

Hopewell became a special teams standout last year when he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against Arkansas and also covered kickoffs extremely well. This season he's hoping to compete for playing time at running back.

Begley has been Kentucky's kicker the last two years. He's made 71 extra points and is 15-for-24 on field goals.

Tamme came out of spring practice in position to earn playing time at receiver because coaches like his size, route-running ability and knack for catching any pass he can touch.

"I can remember when I was 10 or 11 years old and would just admire guys playing on TV," Hopewell said. "Now I know those guys are just normal people, but little kids don't understand that. They hold us up higher than they should."

Tamme said it would "be awesome" if his play at Kentucky influenced another Title Town player to become a Wildcat.

"That would mean I did something really important while I was here," Tamme said. "To inspire other kids is unreal. When I was growing up, I never thought I would get to play Division I football. Never. In high school I didn't think I would. Then the opportunity came.

"Even after I got here, people would say they were glad I came to Kentucky. I always said, 'Me, too.'"

Begley says there's no doubt Boyle and Danville youngsters pay attention to what the current Cats are doing.

"It shows a guy from our area can play Division I football and be successful," Begley said. "If you want to put in the time, work hard and if you are blessed (athletically) a little, then you have a shot.

"Certainly it makes the dream seem more realistic if a guy you remember seeing in church or at Wal-Mart suddenly is on TV playing. That puts the notion in your mind that you can do it, too."

Hopewell says some casual high school friends now act like his "best buds" when he comes home and that he tries to avoid talking UK football to his best friends when he does come home.

Tamme still remembers wanting to ask Brown all kinds of questions about UK football when he would come home.

"It's a big deal. I understand that. It's cool getting to be part of that and have people ask you questions about UK football. Just a few years ago, I was one of those asking the questions," Tamme said.

Being at UK makes every day special

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