Question: Is the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry a bigger deal to players or fans?
Wilson: "It is kind of hard to really say. I think it is probably a bigger deal to fans, but for me I have not really played against U of L in a real game so it is kind of hard for me to hate them but at the same time get in my mind to get those guys. Coach Phillips and athletics director (Mitch Barnhart) here try to emphasize they are our rivals and we have to have a hate for them so we can go out there and play and kind of destroy those guys. But I am pretty sure that is the same way their AD would feel. But I feel for the most part the rivalry means more to the fans than the players. I feel like we are all trying to go to the next level. It is nothing personal.?I know guys on the U of L team. I?see them out in the streets or outside of football, I am not going to fight them."
Question: Does the importance of that game put a strain on friendships with players on the other team?
Wilson: "It kind of does, but at the same time you understand and know what is going on. We are all here for the same reasons. I?really don't let it get to me. I just go out there and play. But at the same time, the fans are so die-hard there that you don't have any choice but to hate the opposing teams, especially when it comes to Tennessee and Louisville because the fans bleed blue the way they do."
Question: Considering you also have eight Southeastern Conference games each year, is it still good to have a rivalry game like this on the schedule?
Wilson: "It is. No disrespect to Central Michigan and Western Kentucky, but that is the game fans and media look at as our first real test. Even though we are in the SEC, Louisville is going to be a good team. Coach (Charlie) Strong is doing some good things down there and has some nice recruits coming in. He is trying to build a nice foundation down there. That will be our first actual test and then we get into SEC play."
Question: Obviously players want to be 12-0, but do you understand why fans feel that the Louisville game truly is a must-win for UK?to have a successful season?
Wilson: "It is one of those type things. My coach says if you win the game you are not going to get too much respect because they look at us like we are supposed to win it from us being in the SEC and what the SEC has done. But if you lose the game, it will be thrown in your face for the next four, five or six years and people and fans will never forget about it. We have to go out there, take things seriously and handle our business."
Question: How have things changed from two years ago when you were suspended for an off-field altercation to last year when you didn't play as much as you hoped to this year where new defensive coordinator Rick Minter has put you in a hybrid linebacker-end role where he expects you to be a big playmaker?
Wilson: "I feel blessed and honored. Coach (Joker) Phillips and the university gave me a chance to come back and prove myself. Through the whole situation they stayed with me. No matter what, they believed in me. I?have a lot to show the fans and coach Phillips and the university just because they stood behind me regardless of what happened. I feel blessed. I just kept faith through the whole situation and tried to learn.
"One of the main reasons I came to the University of Kentucky — and I did want to play in the SEC — was that I wanted to play at a school where I?felt wanted and needed, but at the same time I wanted to know if I got hurt they would not just take me out and I?would never see the field again. Or if I was doing wrong, they would take me out, smack me on my behind and let me know this is not right."
Question: Are you proud that you kept your word after that incident when you vowed not to be in trouble again and it has now been two trouble-free years for you off the field?
Wilson: "Right. I am just trying to keep my head in the books and go to church as much as I can. I?pray to the man above just for a second chance. Some people don't get a lot of second chances, but when you do you have to make the best of it."
Question: Did an incident that could have threatened your playing career somehow turn out to change you and make you a better person and player?
Wilson: "It did. It focused me and made me more humble. It made me realize I?needed to slow down. I?had a lot of fast things going on in my life and I?had to slow down. It made me realize a lot of things that were around me. I?had to separate myself from the bad and separated myself from a lot of evil and devil in my life. It made me good for the most part."
Question: Are you embracing this role as the playmaker/savior for this defense?
Wilson: "I love it. I have a lot of anger in me last year because I felt like I?didn't get a lot of playing time that I thought I would, but at the same time it is a trust issue. This is a business and the coaches get paid by the players and the productivity that they put out there. If they can't trust me, they are not going to put me out there. It was one of those type things. Me and the Coach have a lot of understanding on and off the field and I?feel like I can come in and talk to him about anything. It's all good for me right now."
Q&A with LB Ridge Wilson, a Louisville native
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