For a decade now, beginning in about October, Wildcats fans start getting to know the players who wear the blue and white on the hardwood. For almost all of the really good ones, that love affair ends in June with the NBA Draft.
Rinse and repeat.
Not so during the fall. UK football fans trade the instant annual national championship contender status they enjoy as basketball backers in the winter for the opportunity to get to know their football representatives over three- or four-year careers.
Due in part to the inherent differences in the NBA and the NFL’s relationships with their college counterparts, and in part to (until recently) Kentucky’s inability to attract professional-ready-now football talent, the football Cats, even the really good ones, are around for a while.
And until last season for at least one generation and perhaps several, Kentucky football has always been building, always looking to next season, always exhibiting more promise in the future than production in the present.
One of the most significant figures in Cats gridiron history was part of that tradition, and yet started to change it — one who pointed to brighter days ahead.
And he showed such flair while he was doing it.
Who else but Jared Lorenzen would spot fans leaving early and admonish them, “Hey, where the hell y’all goin’? ... You’re gonna miss one hell of a game!”
Not only that — Lorenzen helped make it so in 2003, lifting Kentucky from 14 points down in regulation to what turned into a seven-overtime thriller eventually won by Arkansas, 71-63.
Lorenzen set Kentucky’s record for career total yards of offense by slinging the ball all over the field — occasionally without looking, as he did for a big gainer against Georgia in 2000 — and using nimble footwork to scramble when openings presented themselves. And he did it all while looking more like a road-grading offensive guard than the dual-threat quarterback he was.
He lifted the Cats to seven wins as a junior in 2002, back when that was a really big deal in the wake of NCAA probation and before the forward momentum Kentucky has gained under current coach Mark Stoops.
For that, it isn’t much of a stretch to credit Lorenzen with setting Kentucky on the path to where it is today.
Last year, Cats fans were invested in their football team long past Big Blue Madness, which hasn’t always been the case.
Kentucky won 10 games in 2018 and the Citrus Bowl, and the Cats did it with swagger behind Benny Snell and Kash Daniel — reminiscent of a gunslinger 16 years earlier.
Lorenzen died Wednesday, much too young at the age of 38. What Kentucky did last year shows his impact on the program is only just now beginning.
ZACK KLEMME is a sportswriter for The Daily Independent in Ashland. Reach him at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.