LEXINGTON, Ky (WYMT)- Mark Stoops didn't grow up idolizing No. 22. He wasn't in the stands for any of Jared Lorenzen's 78 touchdown passes. He wasn't glued to his television marveling at how Lorenzen had just escaped the clutches of a pass rusher yet again.
No, Stoops wasn't one of the countless members of the Big Blue Nation whose imaginations were captured by the record-setting quarterback. It didn't him long after his arrival at Kentucky to figure out why the Hefty Lefty is so loved to this day.
"He's a beloved player here and rightfully so," Stoops said. "I think because any player, you're going to have respect for if they go out there and lay it on the line for your team week in and week out."
Nobody did that like Lorenzen.
For four years, the UK Athletics Hall of Famer poured everything he had into every play of his 41 college starts. He set six NCAA records, four SEC records and 11 school records for passing and total offense in that time, but numbers fail to capture who he was and what he meant.
"I think any time you go back and watch any of his film and see the things that he's done, and trying to put the weight of the team on his shoulders and running it, passing, spinning around, tossing it, any which way to make plays for his team, it's hard not to admire that," Stoops said. "I think that's what everybody remembers."
Three months after his untimely death, that's still true. This week those remembrances will be extra poignant, as Kentucky will host Jared Lorenzen Day as the Wildcats (2-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) take on Arkansas (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Kroger Field.
"It's a special day," Stoops said. "Tt's a special week to remember Jared Lorenzen and we're proud to honor him this week. One of the most beloved and iconic players to ever play at the University of Kentucky. And it will be an honor for us to recognize him and recognize his family this week."
It's fitting Arkansas is UK's opponent for the game, as arguably Lorenzen's most memorable game came against the Razorbacks during his senior season. Down 21-7 in the third quarter, UK rallied and forced overtime – seven periods of it, to be exact. Lorenzen accounted for five total touchdowns in the game – including three rushing scores in overtime – as UK lost a 71-63 thriller.
Most players on both rosters were too young to watch that game, but Stoops intends to educate his team about the legendary quarterback this week. He plans to show Lorenzen highlights in team meetings leading up to late this week when Kentucky will extend a practice invite to Lorenzen's family.
"I would sure like to bring them and introduce them to the team and talk to his son and daughter and his mom and dad and just let them know that we're thinking about them and recognize them and really want to play well for him," Stoops said.
With a bye week last week, Kentucky will be rested and ready come Saturday night. The Cats were already going to be eager to end a three-game losing streak, but honoring an all-time great figure to add an extra edge.
"Our team is going to be hungry to play this game," Stoops said. "It's been a tough stretch, but this gave us an opportunity to hit the reset button, kind of reload, and get ready for this next phase of the season."