clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Max Strong talks Wildcats, tigers, and swimming pigs. Oh my!

Kentucky Wildcats and coaches have a strong social media game, but former UK Specialist Max Strong may have the strongest game of all.

Being a Kentucky Wildcat fan, you find that social media is essential. UK fans are lucky to have a basketball coach in John Calipari that "gets" the medium and keeps the Big Blue Nation informed and engaged like no other college coach. Football fans have the always entertaining Lamar Thomas to follow, but you can argue that the best UK social media account is not on Twitter, but on Instagram.

Welcome to the world of former Kentucky football specialist Max Strong.

Strong was a member of the UK football team since 2012 and graduated last season and served as UK’s backup kicker.He hails from Louisville and was a member of two Trinity state title teams and played as a kicker, punter, and defensive back.

Now, Strong works for the wildlife reserve Wildlife in Need and through his Instagram accounts posts some of the most amazing content you will see on the platform. Don't expect to see pictures of his lunch as his posts are not the standard content. And it's not for the faint of heart.

Instead, Strong posts content of himself playing with tigers and other wildlife and swimming with pigs. It's the life we were all meant to have, and I admit, I had been living vicariously through his posts for a while.

Finally, I had to get some answers to some pressing questions I had about this guy's life and was able to get him to talk to our A Sea of Blue Readers.

Courtesy Max Strong

Paul Jordan: So ... I've been following your Instagram, and I have to say that I am jealous of the videos and pictures of the wild animals and I have to ask. What is it that you do exactly?

Max Strong: I work at a wildlife facility in southern Indiana. I volunteered here for about a year and a half while in college, and once I graduated, I took some time off to travel. And then I started working here in August.

PJ: Is this just a facility for big cats or do they have other animals as well? And isn't Indiana an odd location for this type of facility?

MS: Big cats and other animals as well. Indiana is an odd place however we have climate controlled environments for our smaller animals that can not handle the cold weather. Of course, the big cats stay outside, but they love the cold. I'll be walking through the property on a cold day freezing my tail off and I look over, and I see a tiger sitting in a pool.

PJ: I never knew the big cats like the cold. I'm in Florida and Disney's Animal Kingdom is my preconceived notion of the tiger experience as I'm used to seeing them lounging in the sun. So what exactly are your duties there?

MS: There are facilities all over the country in all types of climates. As long as you provide them with what they need, you are good. I really do whatever is needed from feeding to cleaning and everything in between. It's not really a job where you do the same thing every day. You have to change daily based on what each animal needs.

PJ: That's seriously a dream job for me. So per your UK bio, you are a management and a finance major, so dealing with big cats does not seem to be a likely career path from there. Do you see tigers and wildcats taking the place of boardrooms and the corporate world for you?

MS: For right now, absolutely. Hard to say what I want to do with the rest of my life but right now, I need something fun and exciting and this is it for me. Animals are something I’ve always loved and working with them is an amazing opportunity.Not sure how deep you looked into my bio, but I also said something that people might now know about me. That is that I want to own a tiger. I used to get asked a lot of questions about that, but I guess you could say that I'm getting close.

PJ: I actually was going to bring that up. So that is a really a possibility? I had always assumed that the big cats do not have the temperament to be pets as they get older.

MS: It's definitely a real possibility, and they do. With almost any animal, you get out what you put in. So if you spend enough time with them, they will stay friendly with you. The owner of the place I'm at now has hand-raised tigers for over twenty years, and he is able to go into the enclosure with multiple full grown cats and just roll around with them and play with them.

PJ: That's amazing. Is the wildcat a permanent resident and what is it's demeanor compared to the other animals?

Courtesy of Max Strong

MS: The wildcat is a permanent resident, and he is very sweet. He loves attention.

PJ: Nice. So working around all of these wild animals can be a tad bit dangerous, I'd assume. Have you had any scares or any close calls?

MS: I really haven't. I've been fortunate and definitely hope it stays that way. Working with these animals can definitely be dangerous. You just have to have precaution and always be on your toes.

PJ: That makes sense. OK. So what is the one lesson you have learned from working with these animals that would apply to human life?

MS: I would say commitment. If you choose to be in the animal world, it requires commitment. While you're around the animals, there is no shortcut or doing half the job. You have to do the job right, and you have to be committed because the animals are relying on you.

PJ: Good advice for any field of work there. So, on to sports. What was it like watching your fellow specialist Austin MacGinnis boot those game winning field goals against Mississippi State and Louisville?

MS: Awesome! I loved it for him. Austin has worked his tail off since he got to campus and I'm happy to see him doing so well. I was at the Mississippi State game and was way on the edge of my seat for that last kick. I jumped up when it went through and loved that for him.

PJ: What was it that impressed you the most about Coach Stoops and when did you first get the feeling that he would be the one to turn everything around?

MS: I would say that I was most impressed by how his presence can control a room of people. Never did we have people acting up or still talking when he entered a meeting. He was able to demand respect without forcing it if that makes any sense. Truthfully, from the first meeting we had after he was announced as the head coach, I knew it would be him. Just the way he could command and motivate so many people. It was just a feeling that it would be him immediately. I just wish we would have become bowl eligible while I was there. Barely missed it.

PJ: It's tough because you guys came so close. So, I know that a lot of your family went to UK even though you are from Louisville. Are you a "house divided"? If so, how is that going?

MS: Yea, we were so, so, close (to a bowl), It was tough. House divided? Not at all. All blue through and through. My parents and grandparents all attended UK so going to U of L never crossed my mind even though I grew up in Louisville.

PJ: That's great to hear. I don't play that house divided thing either. Now I have a question since you work with tigers, and have those ties to Louisville and work in Indiana. Which species is more tolerable in have the better demeanor: Tigers, UK fans or IU fans?

MS: Tigers

PJ: I can see that. So, just a couple of quick questions about your Instagram pictures, which are amazing, by the way. I'm not a fan of selfie sticks at all, but that picture of the plane is crazy. Confess. That has to be photoshop, right?

Courtesy: Max Strong

MS: (laughs) I'm not a fan of selfie sticks either, to be honest. That was actually with a GoPro, and I swear I started using that before the typical selfie stick became a thing (laughs). But no photoshop! Everything I post is real!

PJ: And what's the story with the swimming pigs?

MS: It sounds crazy, but I actually planned an entire trip around going to see those pigs. Not sure why I wanted to see them so bad, but I did! They're wild pigs who live on their own little island down in the Bahamas. It was just something I had never seen or heard of before. I thought it was cool!

PJ: That's great. One thing that I've noticed is that you were heavily involved in the community at UK. What was your favorite charity cause there?

MS: I would say the Children's Hospital. I became very close with a couple of kids I met through there.

PJ: What kind of animals do you personally have right now?

MS: The only pet I personally have right now are poison dart frogs. I had them in school also.

PJ: Nothing typical with you, is there (laughs). So how close are you to actually owning that tiger?

MS: The first step is just obtaining the proper permits. I'm not really sure of the process from there, to be honest.

PJ: Well, good luck with that, Max and thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I definitely expect a tour when and if I ever make it up to Indiana.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so you have to head over to Max's Instagram account yourself and check it out yourself.