[Moderated by Matt Jones]
From my first game to the last.
Friday at 5:30 p.m. the best years of my life were pronounced dead. I left my final class and walked across campus for what could possibly be the final time and thought about all of the amazing experiences I have had while a student in Lexington. In five years as a student I saw many incredible games and several unbelievable performances which makes it very difficult to pick my favorites. Last week my fellow writer Adam Schlit counted down his favorite ten moments from this past season. What better way to close the book on my college education than to recount the memories I will carry for life.
10. My First College Football Game- The picture above on the left was taken at one of my first trips to Commonwealth Stadium. Coming to college and getting to witness one of the greatest eras of Kentucky football was pretty awesome and at the time i didn’t realize how much I should appreciate what was going down on the field. That first season produced alot of great moments but there is nothing like the first time you join 60,000+ to cheer on your team.
9. Jodie Meeks crushes Tennessee with 54- There are very few bright spots associated with the Billy G error at UK but Jodie Meeks going ham in Knoxville was certainly one of them. Meeks got into a shooting zone like I have never seen before and did it against one of our biggest rivals. Issel’s record stood for 39 years, I don’t know that Jodie’s will ever be broken.
8. Kentucky 43- Number 1. LSU 37- The Bluegrass Miracle II was a special moment in the history of UK and I vividly remember cheering each moment as I watch the game on my friends couch. Finally, it seemed, Kentucky football had turned the corner. Unfortunately following that game the team would go 1-4 to close out the season but it was special to see the Cats dethrone the eventual National Champions.
7. Trying Out For The Basketball Team-Sometimes there are events in life we can look back on and see that’s the point that changed everything. In the Fall of 2010 UK held open tryouts to walk on the team. I went, despite having no shot, and got to play on the floor of memorial. That tryout led to my first piece of published writing and you now reading theses words. Thank God for Coach Cal.
6. Kentucky upsets Ohio State- Last year before the brackets came out I didn’t care who was in our region as long as it wasn’t Ohio St. Then selection Sunday went down and we drew a match-up with the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16. What followed was an epic game featuring back and forth lead, a game of dodgeball, and a last second finish. I got to watch that game in an incredible atmosphere at the Kentucky theater and following the game my friends and I ran into the streets of Lexington chanting Go Big Blue!
5. Kentucky breaks the Streak- November of last year I saw Kentucky was starting a wide receiver at quarterback and assumed that the Tennessee game result would be the same as the past twenty-five years. With Kentucky grabbing a 3-0 lead to start the game I left my hometown in Eastern KY to head back to Lexington. I listened to Tom Leach call the game the entire ride home and raised my arms and cheered inside my car at the top of my lungs. I called my family and friends, that streak was finally over. For the first time in my life we had beaten Tennessee in football
4. Kentucky Returns to the Final Four- I was nine years old the last time Kentucky was in the final four. After thirteen years of getting close but never reaching that goal it was time to go back. The Cats continued their magical run through March and brought us an unexpected Final Four. It was an absolutely incredible time to be a student.
3. Kentucky’s 2012 Tournament Run- So many great moments I had to consolidate them into this one. In state game against one time Gillispie recruits. Check. Revenge on a hated rival that won on a buzzer beater earlier in the season. Check. Playing your arch-rival in the Final Four! It would be hard to created a more satisfying run to the national championship game. Each game was filled with drama and intrigue that created the most enjoyable NCAA tournament I’ve ever watched.
2. Stevie Gets Loose- In 2006 UK went to Papa Johns and got waxed 59-28 by a Louisville squad that would head to the BCS. So during my freshman year expectations for the game against Number 9. Louisville were low but I held out hope. The game was a back and forth battle that ended with Stevie getting loose and scoring the go ahead TD. I stormed the field for the first time at UK and the atmosphere of that game showed me how good UK can be. A feeling of pure elation only topped by one event…
1. Kentucky Wins The National Championship- Finally the picture on the right. The final game I will attend as a student at UK and the greatest sports moment while I was on campus. Kentucky winning the championship was the greatest way to leave campus as it is always great to go out while you’re on top. I will always be proud to say I was a student when the Cats won number eight.
I was incredibly lucky to go to college during what one day be known as the golden age of UK athletics. UK football had an incredible season my first year and basketball won the title in my last. Not to mention great performances in every other sport which could result in UK winning the Capital One Cup. My time as a Cat has been nothing short of special and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything in this world.
What were your favorite memories of the past five years? Let me know on twitter @ACassady_KSR
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