When you have seen Mark Stoops so far this season either on the field or off, he has carried himself differently this season. He has a change of demeanor, and he credits that to Army Veteran Jason Cummins.
Cummins served a 20 year-career with the Army as an Apache Helicopter Pilot, with tours served in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time he was also teaching classes for the United States Military Academy’s Department of Social Sciences as an Associate Professor of Economics. After his military service came to an end, he wound up working as the Director of Athletics Operations for Horizon Performance, where he grew that to eventually partner with the SEC league office.
After those steps, he finally wound up at UK.
For Kentucky’s athletic department Cummins is the Executive Associate AD/Student Athlete Experience. His job looks like this, “developing leaders of character, competence, and consequence for play and for life.” On top of those student athletes he has made a major impact on Coach Stoops himself.
Alyssa Lang of ESPN and the SEC Network, shared a thread this morning about a segment that didn't fit into the broadcast last night of Kentucky’s win over Missouri. It was an honor to Cummins, and the impact he has made not only for the players, but for the head coach as well.
Story that didnt fit in the broadcast last night, a thread;— Alyssa Lang (@AlyssaLang) September 12, 2021
One of the most important people in Mark Stoops’ career with @UKFootball is Jason Cummins. Jason served a 20 career in the US Army as an Apache helicopter pilot, as well as combat tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq. pic.twitter.com/Y5AmKSa4oe
In the thread Lang shares a quick story about the nervousness of Liam Coen walking up to Stoop’s after the interception on the first drive against Louisiana-Monroe.
“Liam Coen said last week, after the early INT vs ULM, he was nervous to walk back over to Stoops,” Lang writes. “When he did, Coach was calm and encouraging - something that Stoops credits Jason for. Cummins said, like in the military, that game was the start of developing trust- words are important the first few weeks.”
Throughout the nine-year tenure of Coach Stoops, he has obviously been through a roller coaster. Through it all, he’s built this program into one that demands respect, not only for the play on the field, but for the men it produces as well. Cummins has played a major role in that as he helps the coaches from afar.
Jason was on the field Saturday as it was also the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Lang asked Cummins what it meant for him to be there:
“People often ask me, ‘Do you miss the Army?’ & my response is ‘No…I don’t ‘miss’ the Army. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the Army. But I’m now blessed to be part of another TEAM equally committed to developing leaders of character. In both instances, I get to do what I love with people I love. So tonight I’ll be reflecting fondly on a lot of wonderful teammates from two special families!”
A very powerful answer from a man that has made a solid impact on the Kentucky Wildcats football program, and all of UK Athletics.