Kentucky has had many memorable football victories, including the epic 13-7 Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma, propelling Bear Bryant’s Wildcats to the mythical 1950-51 national championship – matching Adolph Rupp’s 1950-51 basketball championship. It was a dream year for the Wildcats faithful.
The Wildcats had earlier provided a dream basketball season in 1948, with the Cats winning everything in sight – including the Olympics.
Not quite as incredible as those UK golden years was 2007 when the Big Blue footballers knocked off national No.1 ranked (and eventual national champion) LSU 43-37 before a record crowd of 71,000 at Kroger Field. A national telecast replay of that game aired recently, warming the hearts of thousands of Wildcats fans.
Quarterback Andre Woodson, one of UK’s all-time best (71 touchdown passes for his junior-senior seasons) was the biggest star of that game (four TD passes), but there was an unsung hero in that contest: kicker Lones Seiber.
Three field goals and four PATs by Seiber provided the margin of victory. Seiber went on to become UK’s all-time leading scorer with 305 points off his strong leg.
I recently talked with Seiber via phone from his home in San Antonio about UK’s incredible win over LSU.
“We were down 14 points (27-14) in the third quarter, but we knew we were moving the ball on them and never gave up.”
Seiber saved the Wildcats by making two fourth quarter field goals, a 33-yarder and
27-yarder to pull the Cats to a 27-27 tie and send the game into the first of three overtimes.
LSU took a 37-34 lead in overtime, but Seiber’s 43-yard kick tied it up at 37.
“Coaches had come to me on the sidelines and asked me what distance I felt comfortable at if we needed a field goal. I told them I felt like I could hit anything inside 55 yards. I knew I could put it through when we lined up for the tying kick. I was pumped and the kick sailed through – I think it would have been good from 58 yards.”
The Cats stopped LSU and got the chance to win as Woodson kept throwing darts. So, Seiber was not needed to kick the winner as Woodson hit Steve Johnson for the 7-yard game winning TD.
Seiber’s road to UK was a bit of a strange one.
His father was an Air Force sergeant of 26 years and his son was a bit of a military brat. Lones was born in Okinawa, Japan.
“Lones was an extremely talented and dedicated athlete,” said his dad, also named Lones. “He went to an American high school in Germany and was a three-sport star. He led his team to the European league football championship for American schools. He was so dedicated he talked his sister into holding the ball tee as he practiced kicking in the snow.”
His dad said for recruiting recognition he thought his son needed to spend his senior season at an American high school, so he sent him to live with relatives in Knoxville.
He led Knoxville Central to an 11-2 record and was selected as All-State by the Associated Press. He was named as the area’s special teams’ player of the year and Kicker of the Year. He was recruited by both Tennessee and Kentucky.
“Coach Phil Fulmer of Tennessee offered me a scholarship, but said they needed to redshirt me as a freshman, because they had a great kicker coming back. The Kentucky coaches told me I would be their starting kicker as a freshman. I did not want to sit out a year. So, I decided to go to Kentucky (where he would later join an old high school foe, Randall Cobb of Alcoa, 10 miles from Central).
Seiber now works as a personnel manager for a San Antonio firm and his dad is employed by a federal agency in San Antonio.
He is still a big UK fan. “I have returned to the campus several times, including for the 10-year anniversary of the LSU game.”
Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.
(Ken Paul Mink is a former Herald-Leader sportwriter, a journalist/author of 50 years and a native of Vicco, near Hazard in Perry County)