VAUGHT: Sumrall sees a change in attitudes

An injury ended his playing career and turned him into a graduate assistant coach, but teammmates still consider Jon Sumrall more of a comrade than a coach.

"The guys are still talking to me when it comes to football like I am their teammate, not their coach," said Sumrall. "That allows me to stay in touch and know what is going on with the team.

"I am not the kind of guy that gets ticked off unless somebody is not doing things the right way. If a guy is not doing his summer workouts, I might say something to him. The biggest thing we need is to make sure everybody on our team keeps showing up, trying to get better and doing things the rigth way. We don't need anybody trying to take any shortcuts."

Sumrall figured to be UK's team leader at middle linebacker this season before his career ended early in spring practice when doctors determined he risked permanent damage, including paralysis, if he kept playing.

But that doesn't mean Sumrall is no longer part of the team. He knew the attitude change it was going to take to give the Cats a chance to win this season.

"The main thing I see is that we are more of a team than we have been the past few years. I think we are all finally pulling the same direction. It's not like the past where guys just did their own thing and had their own goals," Sumrall said. "Now the most important thing is our team goal. Whoever gets awards after the season, so be it. The biggest thing now is we all want to win.

"I think everybody has bought into the team first concept. In the past, it was a situation where some guys bought in, but not everybody did. I really think this is the closest I have seen the offense and defense since I have been here. You can sense that in practice, or just when guys are together. There's more intensity, more excitement than ever."

Sumrall says the players realize Kentucky needs an improved year to assure that coach Rich Brooks and his staff return for the 2006 season. While some may still question how the players feel about the staff, Sumrall says the coaches' situation has given the team a needed sense of urgency.

"This is the third year for coach Brooks and his staff here. Our guys want to win. I think for the first time guys also realize that the coaches do care about us and want the team to be the best it can be," Sumrall said. "Guys finally realize the criticism is only to make us better. In the past we had locker room lawyers doing too much talking. That won't happen this season and, trust me, that's going to make a big difference on our team."

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