VAUGHT: UK assistant suffers heart attack

When Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Abren reported for preseason camp, he was surprised not to see his position coach, Rick Petri. Abren soon learned that Petri has suffered a heart attack.

"I was reporting for camp when I heard the news. I asked someone, 'Where is coach Petri?' That's when I was told he had a heart attack. I was just shocked. I am happy he's back out here. We are trying to keep him calm. He's been a little hyper out here.

"I finally had to say, 'Coach, you had a heart attack. Calm down.' But he is back to being the same old coach Petri and we're just happy he's back out here."

Petri woke up with chest pains last Thursday, one day before UK's players were to report for training camp. He had total blockage of one artery and required immediate surgery. Yet there he was Tuesday overseeing his defensive linemen like nothing had ever happened.

"They put in a stint to fix it and told me I could slowly start coming back," Petri said after Tuesday's practice. "I got unbelievable care. I was very fortunate if I was going to have something like this, to have it here. I got great care at the UK hospital cardiac care unit from the doctors and nurses."

While he might have medical clearance to return to work, he still has someone monitoring his every move on the practice field. His wife, Marsha, who is still living in Mississippi so one of their sons can finish his high school senior season without moving, is in Lexington and watched every step he took at practice in the hot, humid weather.

"She is here to watch and make sure I don't mess up or overdo things," Petri said. "Sometimes I lose more control than I should, but then I look over and see somebody (Marsha) watching me so I figure I am doing too much and better slow down a little bit."

Petri is not ready for the 18-hour days he normally would put in at this time of year. UK players roll out of bed at 6:45 a.m. and meetings usually last until 10 p.m. or later.

"I can't do that yet. After practice I get cleaned up and have to go rest," Petri said. "I try to make it through practice and most of the meetings with the players so I can spend as much time with them as possible. But I'm not quite back to full speed."

Since Petri spent an hour on WLAP radio with me one week before he had his heart attack, I had to ask if he thought that was a factor.

"You put me under so much pressure, it put me down," he laughed and said. "We've got the bad behind us, now the good is ahead. I'm just lucky it was no worse than it was."

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