On behalf of Big Blue Nation, a letter to Lynn Bowden: Thank you
These past 3 years have gone by in a hurry. Everyone saw the video you released that made official what we all had figured out—that there won’t be a 4th year. Well, at least it won’t be in Lexington, but instead will be in Nashville or New England or Seattle or, God forbid, Cincinnati or Cleveland. You’ve earned it. Go catch those dreams and make a very lucky fan base hold their breath in anticipation every time you touch the ball. But before you run all over Virginia Tech for one last time in blue and white, there are a few things that need to be said.
Thank you for choosing Kentucky, because it couldn’t have been an easy choice. There were plenty of other schools with more established programs where you could have played. Fortunately, Ohio State didn’t catch on real quick. The mind boggles at the thought of you, Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins playing together. Instead, you came to UK, where a team can have the best season in four decades, and the next season, everybody picks you to finish 6th in the SEC East.
Both sides had some things to prove. Kentucky had finally invested in its program and hired a coach who was less concerned with a wacky unusual style of play than with laying the fundamentals to actually climb in the SEC. You … well, there were a lot of whispers about you. You had a lot of tattoos, you came from a rough town, you probably had some fairly interesting family reunions. Plenty of people thought both sides would fail. Kentucky can’t compete in big-time football, they said. Just like they said you couldn’t adapt to college, that bad influences would drag you down, that you wouldn’t buy in enough to meet your apparent potential.
Thank you for putting in the time and the work, for growing from an immature kid in 2017 who spent more time creating Twitter drama than making plays on the field. Thank you for becoming a stand-up father, a true teammate, a leader, the kind of guy who had the self-confidence, the athleticism and the gift for big moments in 2018 to grab a long bomb to knock off the Gators in The Swamp, to single-handedly pull UK back into a tough win at Missouri, and to open the scoring in that Citrus Bowl win over Penn State with a Houdini punt return.
And then thank you for doing something entirely different and wonderful and unexpected in the second half of 2019. When 3 consecutive losses left Kentucky looking like all the negativity of the preseason predictions might have been right, like the surprising streak of good things around Big Blue Nation’s football team could end, you stepped it up one more time. You became a quarterback.
No, you weren’t a quarterback like Tim Couch or Jared Lorenzen or Andre Woodson. You didn’t have to be. Your success wasn’t based on trickery or out-scheming the opposition. It was based on something as old as football itself. Your days at quarterback were Kentucky saying, “We’re going to give the ball to our best player. He’ll share it sometimes, but a fair amount of the time, he’s going to run the ball right down your throat. And you’ll know it, and you won’t be able to stop it.”
And 1,235 rushing yards later, we can all acknowledge that’s exactly how it was. You were a magician, with everybody in the audience studying you, trying to catch the trick, to figure out how you did it all. Maybe that’s what the Michael Jordan-esque shrug you gave against Louisville was about — maybe you even surprised yourself a time or two.
Thank you for that element of surprise. Thank you for showing that an immature freshman can become a big-game sophomore and then an all-time legend as a junior. Thank you for the reminder that even in the SEC, the script of college football isn’t written in stone. Things can change, people can change, programs can change. Thank you for making a 4th-string quarterback a position for an All-SEC player and if there is any justice, an All-American. Thank you for the reminder that possibility is in each of our own hands, and if we own our destinies as fearlessly and as earnestly as you have, then our pasts matter much less than our futures.
And there is still that one game left as a Wildcat. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store.