VAUGHT: Cats will miss Sumrall

Jon Sumrall is one of those players that you have to like. He was never the biggest, strongest or fastest player on Kentucky's football team - and he knew it. But Sumrall never believed that he could not make a difference for the Wildcats and any time he got a chance to play, he played like the national championship was at stake.

Kentucky will miss that attitude next season now that Sumrall has been forced to give up his final year of eligibility rather than risk a serious spinal cord injury.

"It's a tough blow, but it's a lot better for the doctor to tell me this way than after they have carried me off the field and I'm in real trouble," Sumrall said.

But he can still be a vital part of next year's team. New linebacker coach Chuck Smith wants Sumrall to help him coach the linebackers next season.

"He's a quality kid and such a great role model for everyone," Smith said. "If you are around him, you love him. I have not known him that long, but our team is going to dearly miss him. That's why I want to talk him into helping me with the linebackers. He could be a huge asset."

Smith, a former Kentucky linebacker, knows Sumrall's leadership can still be a huge help to Kentucky's young linebackers. This summer when coaches cannot be on the field to see if players are doing drills, Sumrall can help them. When coaches can't be around to see if a player is conditioning the way he should, Sumrall can see what is happening.

More importantly, when a young linebacker is confused, Sumrall can help. Sumrall seldom made a wrong read or bad step. He may have lacked the physical strength and speed to sometimes make a play, but it was not from a lack of effort or knowledge.

"I still want to help. I want to be part of this team. I've put too much into this program to just walk away," Sumrall said. "I might drive the coaches crazy trying to help, but I know the players will understand I just want us to be better. I want to leave here knowing this program is better and just because I can't play doesn't mean I can't do things to help our team get better."

If the players that can play have the same attitude - and it seems like many more do this year - then Sumrall may still be able to enjoy his final season even if he won't be on the field.


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