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Days from draft, Warford nervous, proud to represent Kentucky in NFL

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Larry Warford is expected to become the first UK offensive lineman to be drafted into the NFL since 1993. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Larry Warford is expected to become the first UK offensive lineman to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1993. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
With the NFL Draft just days away, Larry Warford is desperate for ways to pass the time. UK's former star offensive guard knows he's about to receive life-changing news and he's trying everything he can think of to occupy his racing mind..

"Play bass guitar, fish, video games, workout," said Warford. "Just anything to get my mind off of it. Might go driving for no reason. That's really it. Just lay down and try to relax."

But how can he relax when in just a couple of days he will be living in a completely new city surrounded by a wholly unfamiliar set of coaches and teammates? Warford literally has no idea where he will be headed come this weekend when his name is called, whenever that may be.

As of now, he doesn't even know where he will be when he gets drafted. In fact, he may just keep playing video games until he gets that phone call.

"My dad wants me to come down and have a party with the family," said Warford. "I kind of don't want to do anything for it. I kind of just want to sit at my house and play video games or something like that because I'm just going to be nervous the whole time."

One thing he will be doing is a virtual certainty: Warford is going to be selected in the NFL Draft (Thursday-Saturday on ESPN and the NFL Network). When that moment comes, he will become the first UK offensive lineman to accomplish the feat since Todd Perry and Chuck Bradley in 1993.

Scouts and analysts have Warford projected anywhere from the second to fourth rounds in a draft heavy with talent at offensive guard. Teams that he has worked out for and talked with on the phone have given him a similar feel.

While he's nervous, it's not about his ability to compete at the next level. After four seasons as a Wildcat, Warford has solidified himself as one of the top offensive linemen in this season's draft class after earning All-Southeastern Conference accolades the last three seasons and becoming an All-American along the way.

It's been his time as a Wildcat and the tutelage of former offensive line coach Mike Summers that have helped him reach this point.

"I'm a lot more confident in myself," said Warford. "I'm very critical of myself still, but when I first got to UK, I thought that I wasn't great at all. I went from high school to college and I wasn't dominating like I was. I failed to realize there's a lot better talent in college.

"Having gone through my years at UK these last four years and steadily becoming a better player, I've gained a lot more confidence in myself."

There was talk about Warford potentially declaring for the draft after his junior season, but he knew that he still had plenty of improving to do before he was ready for the NFL while his confidence continued to blossom.

"I wasn't ready last year to come out as a junior. I had a lot to work on," said Warford. "I feel like through this season, I got to play against a lot better (defensive) tackles with the addition of Missouri and going out to play Florida and Georgia. Those guys had a lot of great d-tackles, so I got to improve my game a lot. It's helped me out a whole bunch."

While confident in his abilities, Warford's humility and desire to continue to improve has put him in this position to have his named called at Radio City Music Hall in New York City this weekend. And even when he gets that call, he'll still go out there and show his team that he has something to prove.

"I knew that I had a lot to work on. I still believe I do," said Warford. "I'm not a perfect offensive lineman. Nobody is. There's always something to work on. Honestly, from keeping that point of view throughout my entire career at UK has helped me progress as a play and become a good one. I'm just going to try to keep that mentality and never become complacent with where I'm at."

Where he's at now and where he's been seem like lifetimes away, though he played high-school football just down the road at Madison Central High School in Richmond, Ky.

His high school coaches implored Warford to try and improve his body composition and conditioning, things he continues to work on as he prepares for the NFL. At that time, Warford had no idea what to expect going into college. Looking back, he wishes he would have listened.

"It would have made my life easier as a freshman," said Warford. "Coming in and doing the conditioning tests, it just woke me up that I needed to do something about my condition when I first got here. If I would have listened to them a little bit more and ran a little bit more, I wouldn't have been hurting for that whole first year."

Back then, heading into his freshman season and playing football for Kentucky was the unrealized dream. Now, he's ready to play the game professionally in the NFL. That thought, though the moment is just days away, is still taking some getting used to.

"It's still kind of like a dream. Since it's not (at Kentucky), it doesn't seem like it's real," said Warford. I'm getting all these calls from these teams asking me for my information for draft day, and it's like, 'Oh, I'm here now.' It's only a couple of days away. The fact that it's getting so close, it's becoming a reality."

Despite not reaching the level of team success he would have liked over the past two seasons, Kentucky will always be special to Warford as his home and place where he matured and developed as not only a football player, but as a man. This is why when one team decides to draft "Larry Warford from the University of Kentucky," that will be his proudest moment as his life changes forever.

"I just want to represent my university. It's a great place," said Warford. "I've had so much fun and I've gotten a lot out of it. To represent UK in the draft, it means everything to me. It's just something I've really been wanting to do and take a lot of pride in."

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