As most of you know, Tom Leach has a new book coming out about Rich Brooks this week. The title is, Rich Tradition -- how Rich Brooks revived the football fortunes of the Kentucky Wildcats, and you can order your copy at this link if you are interested.
There is really no doubt that Rich Brooks has helped turn the Kentucky football program around. Back in the early 2000's Kentucky was arguably the weakest team in the SEC. Attendance to games was down, the choice of Brooks was quite unpopular, and his first two and a half years at Kentucky looked really ugly. Calls for Brooks' replacement were everywhere. But then suddenly, things turned around, and UK football has been on an upward trajectory ever since.
Tom Leach, of course, is a good friend of this blog, and he knows that we periodically have Dicky Lyons Jr posting his comments here. In honor of that, Tom thoughtfully provided us with this excerpt from the book as it relates to Dicky:
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Lyons says he sensed his teammates' confidence was shaken after that LSU game, so he wanted to challenge them.
"That’s why I went and made those statements, just trying to get the team fired up and it got coach Brooks fired up, and I think the whole team rallied around that game. I think that, you could put that whole turnaround on that week alone," he said. "I think that’s when we really found a spark as a team and with our coach."
Brooks was furious. With so much on the line, the last thing he needed was one of his players giving the opponent some bulletin board material to use as motivation.
"He didn’t guarantee a win. What he said was that he wants to go down and beat Mississippi State like LSU beat us. He wants to beat them bad, beat them up physically and that is what we are going to do. I don’t remember the word 'guarantee'—it might have been in there—but I have always been a believer in not putting the cart before the horse, if you will. And you give the opponent the respect you should going up to a game and after a game, and also, (brash talkers are) putting their teammates in a bad situation by running their mouth," Brooks said.
Brooks made Lyons off-limits to the media for the rest of the week and he ordered him to do extra running after practice. A reporter friend of mine wondered if Brooks was perhaps using Lyons as a way to test his team's unity, but Brooks insists that this was not on his mind. He says his anger was genuine because he saw it was Lyons disrespecting an opponent. Nevertheless, the team did rally around Lyons, with some of his teammates joining him for the extra running drills, and the coach noticed.
"That’s just me being me. Like Dicky being Dicky, that’s just me, being me. I am never going to tolerate that. I guess I am an old-fashioned guy. I think some of the new age antics in athletics are uncalled for and I think that is one of the things that are uncalled for. (But) I liked that," Brooks said of the support Lyons got. "I thought that was a positive thing that there were some players that did the extra running and not leave Dicky hanging by himself."
"I think that’s what was needed," teammate Keenan Burton said of Lyons' proclamation. "You know, sometimes you do negative things, but those negative things kind of help you build your identity and coach Brooks gave us opportunity to build our own identity."
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