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Towles looks to make impact with leadership, talent

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Patrick Towles compiled a 38-1 record and three state titles starting at quarterback for Fort Thomas Highlands. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Patrick Towles compiled a 38-1 record and three state titles in three seasons as the starting quarterback for Fort Thomas Highlands. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Leading up to football media day on August 3, Cat Scratches will be spotlighting a few of Kentucky's freshmen to help introduce fans to the newest bunch of Wildcats. Next up in the series of freshman features is highly touted, play-making quarterback prospect Patrick Towles out of Highlands High School in Ft. Thomas, Ky.

Patrick Towles is one of the most decorated high school football players in Kentucky state history. He is a state champion. He's been named player of the year. He is ranked among the top incoming quarterback prospects in the nation.

Today, as a freshman of the University of Kentucky football team, none of that matters anymore.

"It's so hard to get here, because at first, if you want to lead, you have to get the respect of the people you are leading," said Towles. "That's either going to be through hard work or fear or something like that. But coming in as a freshman, high school doesn't matter anymore. I don't have any stepping ground or anything that can prove to them to say, 'Hey, I deserve your respect.' These first two months, I'm just trying to get the respect of all my teammates so that when the time comes, I can."

That's just one of the challenges for a freshman quarterback: leadership. And while his high school credentials don't carry much weight amongst his peers, the intangible skills he learned while quarterbacking one of the best teams in the state don't go unnoticed. 

His head coach Joker Phillips, who identified Towles as a priority for Kentucky early on in Towles' high school career, believes Towles has the ability to be a great leader not only in the future, but now. It was one of the things that most impressed Phillips about his freshman quarterback coming in.

"(He's a) big athlete, takes charge, he's a film room junkie, winner," said Phillips on National Signing Day. "(He) went in as a sophomore when the starting quarterback goes down, he was the guy that went in and all he did was lead 'em to a state championship as a sophomore and then went on to win two more after that.  He's the guy that's the type of leader that we need to be the face of this program." 

Towles showed that leadership on Signing Day being the very first player to fax his papers in. He has not stopped since. Towles' leadership has shown on the football field already this summer, but it's been his ability to build team chemistry off the field that's been a real eye opener. 

Earlier this summer, Phillips invited some of his freshman over to his house for some dinner and team building. In a lake near his house, the guys went fishing. That's when the fun began.

"Zack Blaylock pulled in a 20-pound carp and he had a 10-pound test line," said Towles. "So, we were trying to get the fish in and we had five or six guys. So we got in the boat and started paddling to the other side of the lake to try and coerce the fish out of the water. But we ended up not having to use the boat because a neighbor had a net that we used to get it."

Towles says it's the off-field bonding that helps bring good teams together.

"Everybody can take just so much football bonding," said Towles. "If you build the off-the-field stuff, it's so much easier to have a relationship on the field."

The leadership qualities that Towles has exhibited in his short time in Lexington are hardly surprising. But he didn't get to that point all on his own. 

Towles, in fact, is not the only Highlands Bluebird to take snaps for the Kentucky Wildcats. It just so happens that a player that Towles idolized in his youth has now become a mentor of sorts. Jared Lorenzen, whose last season for Kentucky was 2003, has helped the incoming freshman get familiar with the playbook as well as improving particular parts of his game.  

"Growing up, I always saw him playing on TV," said Towles of Lorenzen. "But my sophomore year, it was my first start, and I was going into halftime, he passed me a note that said he thought I had the potential to be pretty good, gave me his cell phone number. So I started texting him. We really started getting our relationship going and we started meeting to work on football."

They've been working together ever since. Lorenzen, who has assisted Towles with his footwork, throws and routes, had a four-year NFL career, all with the New York Giants. But Towles had help from another NFL talent who still has pretty deep ties to the game.

Chris Collinsworth, a former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver and current broadcaster for NBC, came on board the Highlands coaching staff for Towles' senior season as the wide receivers coach. Just their presence around the team helped Towles become the player and leader he is now.

"It's been awesome because they've been there and done that," said Towles. "They know the best way to do things because, you know, they've done it. It was good to get their point of view and their opinions on everything, and it really helped me improve."

Having those personalities around certainly helped mold Towles' mentality on the football field, but a lot of his leadership skills were developed on their own. Towles took over as the starter of the Highlands football team his sophomore year and never looked back, taking them to three-consecutive state championships, two in 5A and one in 4A. It's an ability that he was born with, but had to discover it for himself.

"A lot of people are born with different things," said Towles. "Everyone is born with the potential to lead, but you have to experience it. Starting at Highlands for three years, it really helped me mature as a leader in all aspects. Improving my leadership helped in developing my relationships with my siblings, my teammates and eventually college coaches."

The summer has been an important time for Towles to develop the relationships with his teammates and start earning their trust. He's worked hard in improving his game to give him a chance to compete this season.

Yes, Towles expects to compete this season. On the field. For Kentucky. As a freshman. That has been the goal all along when he decided to commit to Kentucky. In order to do that, he knows how important the work he puts in this summer will be to him seeing the field this fall. 

"I want to just improve," said Towles. "Improving is the one thing that you can definitely do every day. When I step on the field, I am going to be better by the time I get off of it. I've gained some muscle and weight. I've got a lot faster. I'm really trying to get my body physically ready to play in the SEC."

Whether or not his talent and skills are SEC-caliber is yet to be determined, but his leadership is well-documented. For him to have a successful career as a quarterback at Kentucky and to be able to compete at a high level, he knows it's the responsibility of the quarterback to be the driving force when the going gets tough.

"It's of utmost importance because the quarterback is the position on the field where everybody looks to you when things go wrong," said Towles. "The quarterback is the one that has to call everybody back, to get everybody on the same page."

Leadership is what he knows. That's all he's ever done.

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