Vaught's Views: Two-sport standout Pulley will be football-only at UK

August 27, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Hopkinsville's Curtis Pulley might be Kentucky's best overall high school athlete this year.

He's so good that many in western Kentucky figure he has a chance to be both Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball.

His football coach, Craig Clayton, says Pulley is the best player he's ever had. If that doesn't impress you, consider in the last 10 years that Clayton has coached Artose Pinner, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing for Kentucky and is now with the Detroit Lions; 1995 Mr. Football finalist Miguel Merritt who played at Alabama; Deontey Kenner, a three-year starter at Cincinnati; and Ricky Abren, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman at Kentucky.

His basketball coach, Terry Hayes, has watched Pulley lead his team to a 57-11 mark the last two years. Pulley averaged 22 points and a state-best 15 rebounds per game last year. As a sophomore, he was second in the state in field goal percentage.


Even though Pulley toyed with the idea of trying to play both sports in college, he decided this week that he will only play football at Kentucky.

"I thought I might try to do both sports, but now I'm just going to stick with football," said Pulley.

His commitment was huge for Kentucky, which hopes to sign two quarterbacks this year. He's the athletic, versatile quarterback UK wants. The Cats now likely will also try to sign one dropback passer to go with Pulley.

He passed for 2,264 yards and 23 touchdowns last year and ran for 1,164 yards and 18 more scores.

Pulley impressed Kentucky coaches at UK's summer camp, but recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips first offered him a scholarship before his junior season.

"Kentucky has been with me the longest, and that made a difference," Pulley said.

He also considered Wake Forest, where he has family, and Marshall, which prominently features the quarterback in its offense.

But Kentucky was the first school to offer him a scholarship, and Abren plays there.

"I've gotten to know some of their players real well, and it won't be a problem adjusting," Pulley said.

Two other factors favored UK

Kentucky had two other factors in its favor. One, Pulley was not worried about this year's record. Two, he's no longer obsessed with playing only quarterback. If he needs to move to another position, that's fine with him.

"I could play defense or several different positions," Pulley, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, said.

Hayes remains convinced Pulley could play basketball, too, and says he could be a stronger, more versatile Ravi Moss, the UK basketball walk-on from Hopkinsville.

"Curtis reminds me a lot of Ravi. He's very versatile, he's athletic and he is a good shot blocker and defender," Hayes said. "He just has those natural instincts about him. He's definitely a player that could play both sports in college. I know it is hard to do, but he could."

Pulley is now more focused on another difficult feat. He wants to find a way to play in the Class AAA state football championship game. Of course, that means his team would have to find a way to beat Boyle County, something no one has done in the playoffs since 1998.

Twice Hopkinsville got close. In 2002 Hopkinsville lost 13-7 to Boyle in the Class AAA semifinals. The year before, Boyle beat Hopkinsville 28-21 in the semifinals.

"I really hope we can beat Boyle. We think we should be pretty good and most everyone expects us to be the best team in the west this year," Pulley said. "It's kind of hard to believe what Boyle has done. We feel we have had chances to beat them, but they taught us that you have to finish a game and be fundamentally sound to win.

"They just always do what they are supposed to do because they are so disciplined on offense and defense. But I hope we get the chance to play them, and maybe this time we can make it go our way."

Pulley's decision has already helped things go UK's way. Less than 24 hours after he committed, Hancock County safety-receiver Mike Schwindel did, too. He had been waiting to see if a scholarship offer might come from Louisville, but he decided to end the wait and picked UK.

The Cats now have four in-state verbal commitments - Trigg County lineman Kenny Ray Turner and Belfry defensive back David Jones committed earlier - and that's been a priority for Phillips. Pulley was one of the priority in-state recruits and the first big name to go UK's way.

"I don't know what others will do. I just know I want to play at Kentucky," Pulley said.

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