Abren would fit in just as well with Kentucky's marching band

October 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If Ricky Abren had not been so strong and athletic, he might be playing in a college marching band instead of playing for the Kentucky football team.

The 275-pound defensive lineman comes from a musical family in Hopkinsville that had band, not football, as a family tradition. So he split time between football and band in middle school before becoming a full-time football player in high school.

"I did both all through middle school, and I loved them both," Abren said. "My whole family was in the band. I played the baritone. Nobody made me be in the band, either. I wanted to do it.

"My brother, who is a senior middle linebacker at Campbellsville (University) right now, was the first one in our family to start playing football. But he was in the band, too, and played the tuba. My family was a band family, not a football family."


However, like his older brother Greg, Abren loved making a hit as much as he enjoyed making tunes. While he was comfortable with the baritone in his hands, he was just as much at ease hitting opponents on the football field.

The redshirt freshman can now bench-press 430 pounds and has a 580-pound dead lift. He helped Hopkinsville win 44 games in high school with his 209 career tackles, including 33 for losses and 20 quarterback sacks.

He might have played both

If there had been a way to do both, he might have kept playing in the band in high school.

"I had to put the baritone down because there were too many conflicts between band and football," Abren said. "Football was always my first love, but I am not going to act like I didn't love playing in the band, too."

He still remembers "looking to see what the band was doing" during football games his freshman year in high school even though he was already in Hopkinsville's starting lineup.

"I still love listening to music," Abren said. "I used to make beats and stuff on my computer mixing a song. I love music."

Still, he knows not every football player shares the same passion for music in general, and band in particular, as he does.

"We were talking the other day and somebody said they were not going to let their son be in the band no matter what," Abren said. "I said, 'What's wrong with being in the band? I was in there three years.' They crack a few jokes on me now about being in the band, but that is all right. Besides, if I needed to, I could play a few tunes and read a few notes still. It's still in my blood."

Abren probably would have played for Kentucky last year if a heart problem had not sidelined him. Then last summer he was charged with several offenses following a routine traffic stop in Hopkinsville. Charges other than a traffic violation were eventually dropped to clear the way for Abren to play.

"Coach Brooks could have just not believed me this summer and said that was it. But he let me know he trusts me as much as I trust him. You don't ever forget that," Abren said.

Ohio was his best game

Abren had his best game in UK's disappointing loss to Ohio University. Two of his six tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, making him one of the few players praised by the Kentucky coaches.

"I felt good about the way I played, but I would have traded it for a win not to have had to put up with the embarrassment we did for losing," Abren said. "When you don't win, it's not much fun."

Abren wants to finish the season playing even better than he has and prove that he can help Kentucky have a better defense in the years ahead in spite of the team's recent struggles, including last week's 45-17 loss to Alabama.

"I want to show everybody it was not just a high school thing with me," Abren said. "I want to show that I can play at this level and compete at a very high level. I want to show everybody the real me."

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