Each spring around the middle of June, members of the UK sports information staff gather up the early graduates on the UK football team for a photo to recognize their accomplishments. This year three players - Collins Ukwu, Gene McCaskill and Cartier Rice - accomplished the impressive feat of graduating early. On Thursday, the players put on their best shirts and ties, covered by caps and gowns and went outside of the newly renovated Nutter Training Center for a quick photo.
After the brief photo shoot was finished, McCaskill decided there was one more photo he wanted to take. The senior wide receiver asked head football athletic trainer Jim Madaleno and senior athletic trainer Gabe Amponsah to join in a photo with him. When the two looked a bit surprised.
"I wouldn't have accomplished this without you two," McCaskill said.
McCaskill was right.
After a strong freshman season in which he played in 12 games with four starts and a solid sophomore season during which he caught 17 passes for 163 yards, McCaskill was looking to be the playmaker he knew he could be entering the 2010 season. But early in fall camp, the veteran receiver suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ending his 2010 season.
Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Later that year, McCaskill was forced to have arthroscopic surgery on the same knee before another partial tear of his meniscus sidelined him yet again. And in August of last year, McCaskill told Jen Smith of the Lexington Herald-Leader that he even pondered giving up football.
But after countless hours of rehab with Madaleno and Amponsah, somehow McCaskill fought though. And although a simple gesture of a photo is something most people brush off every day, there is no doubt this photo meant much more to McCaskill.