After the Wildcats closed out Tuesday’s practice, Kemp was asked if he knew anyone on the Florida roster before this weekend’s matchup. Kemp went to DeLand High School, the same school that produced recent Florida signees Mike Gillislee and De’Ante Saunders.
"A couple of my (high school) teammates actually went to Florida, so I'm familiar with a lot of those guys," JoJo Kemp told The Courier-Journal. "It's going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces."
But Kemp wasn’t done. Making a trip to Florida means it will be easier for his family to see him play, and he will have a large number of friends and family in attendance at The Swamp this weekend.
"A little bit more family are going to be there supporting me," he said. "It's not like when we have games (in Lexington), and my mom and dad get to come. I'm just going to show them what I came here for, the reason I came here, to show them what I've been working so hard for. I don't usually go home during my breaks, so I want to actually show them why I haven't been home."
Word of the comments spread through the Florida locker room on Wednesday morning, and posters with the quote were made and posted on social media by Florida players.
Florida linebacker Michael Taylor fired back at Kemp on Twitter, referring to Kemp as “Kentucky’s 3rd string back” that was talking trash. When Taylor met with the media on Wednesday, he was more reserved, but there’s no question the comments have the attention of the Florida players. Taylor downplayed it providing any extra motivation because of what this team has been through in the last year.
“After the season we had last year and watching myself and how we played last year, there’s no extra motivation needed,” Taylor said. “This whole summer, hearing all that stuff and seeing the results of last year, no extra motivation is needed. That was taken into training camp and spring practices and everything we did leading up to this point.”
But Taylor did agree that Kemp’s comments likely come from the national perception that the Florida program is down after last year’s four-win season, and opponents see this as their chance to come in and upset the Gators.
“We welcome that,” Taylor said. “We welcome any team that’s ready to play us because we’re going to be ready to play them. They’re on our schedule, we’re ready to play them.”
When the comments made their way to the head coach’s office in Lexington last night, it wasn’t a positive response from Mark Stoops. He knew that it would end up in the Florida locker room and provide extra motivation to a Florida team that has won 27 straight meetings between the two teams.
"I was furious. I was outraged and I talked to him about it,” Stoops said. “But the thing is, he was trying to make light of some friends that he has on [Florida's] program, but like I told him yesterday, 'You think they're going to hear all that? They're going to hear the last five seconds of what you said.'”
And those last five seconds were exactly what ended up on the poster in the Florida locker room.
"I know the great pride of the players in that locker room at Florida,” Stoops said. “I've been all through Florida. I've been at Miami. I've been at South Florida. I've been at Florida State. I know personally quite a few of those players and the pride that they have. One thing, it's not very smart to try to challenge their pride before you play them. Believe me, I know them. I don't think that was very smart.
“It's not something that I teach. It's not how we talk. And really if you listen to his whole conversation he was quite humble and really handled himself the right way until the end. But again, that's just not very smart on our part and we'll get that fixed."
The Florida players brushed the comments off on Wednesday, saying they’d rather focus on their team and improving what they can before Saturday’s game against the Wildcats. But it’s hard to imagine the comments are completely removed from their mind.
“At the end if we beat them, it’s a little something to rub back in his face,” Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves III said.