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Marcus McWilson, Austin MacGinnis and Alex Montgomery. (Nikki McLaughlin, UK Athletics) Marcus McWilson, Austin MacGinnis and Alex Montgomery. (Nikki McLaughlin, UK Athletics)
This week, Alex Montgomery, Austin MacGinnis and Marcus McWilson are on UK football's annual service trip to Ethiopia. Over the coming days, they will take turns sharing their experiences in a series of Cat Scratches blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics. Today, Nikki McLaughlin -- the photographer accompanying the group on the trip -- shares her thoughts.

Each time I visit Ethiopia, I return home having made some amazing new friends. Included on the new friend list this go-round: three incredible football players from Kentucky.

I've been in awe this week as I have watched these three young men bless the people here and be blessed by them in return. Whether they were doing construction projects on the home of an AIDS-affflicted widow, delivering a mattress to an elderly woman who had never before slept on one, providing food to families who might otherwise have nothing at all to eat or showering love upon impoverished children, these three have impressed me so much.

I will never forget watching Marcus McWilson tirelessly pound nail after nail into mud homes so that several widows would be ready for rainy season. I will always remember watching Alex Montgomery quietly offer a big smile to each child who ran up for a chance to compare their (tiny) hand against his.  And Austin MacGinnis, he must have dedicated an entire suitcase to candy, toys and soccer cleats. I loved watching him put his heart into sharing each of these things with the sweet babies here. Although on the opposite side of the globe from home, all three of these guys seemed to be "right at home" as they took time to play football and soccer with countless little ones.

These guys have worked hard and loved big. And today, the group relaxed a bit, took a break from work and went on a field trip! We drove several hours south of Addis to Debre Libanos to check out an ancient 13th-century monastery and the Blue Nile Gorge. I was super impressed by the story of a monk who meditated in a cave near the monastery for just over 29 years. We saw monkeys too! AWESOME. Before heading back we had an impromptu portrait shoot at the gorge lookout which included karate-kid kicks and handstands of course.

Whether serving widows and orphans or throwing a football to an aspiring athlete or chasing after monkeys, these guys have totally rocked it. I am so honored to be here with this amazing UK team as we adventure through Ethiopia making friends and memories along the way, so lucky to be behind my lens capturing this story. Ethiopia now has a piece of my heart and I dare to bet the same is true for my new friends from Kentucky.

"It's not how much we give but how much LOVE we put into giving." -- Mother Teresa

UK Athletics administrator Rachel Baker is accompanying three UK football players on a service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics) UK Athletics administrator Rachel Baker is accompanying three UK football players on a service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics)
This week, Alex Montgomery, Austin MacGinnis and Marcus McWilson are on UK football's annual service trip to Ethiopia. Over the coming days, they will take turns sharing their experiences in a series of Cat Scratches blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics. Today, Rachel Baker -- the senior associate athletics director accompanying the students on the trip -- shares her thoughts.

As I reflect on the work of the three student-athletes today in Korah, I have found difficulty in finding the words to do it justice. For me, today has been one of the toughest yet. Korah, Ethiopia is one of the poorest areas in the country. Thousands of people live there, and many of them live at the dump in order to have a potential source of food and supplies.

The morning started at a local church where we distributed food supplies to 30 widowed mothers and children. Each family received a month's supply of oil, matches, rice, macaroni, spaghetti noodles, toilet paper, soap and detergent. The women began lining up as we were preparing the bags for distribution and you could see and feel their excitement. These women do not have traditional "sponsors," so many times do not know where or how they or their children will survive from week to week.

Following this, we traveled to the city dump to observe the living conditions. While we all come from different backgrounds and have experienced different things in our life, I can honestly say that I have never experienced anything like today. To witness hundreds of human beings living in a garbage dump in order to have a potential source of food and supplies was almost too much. The smell was unimaginable, and I am ashamed to admit that there were several times when I didn't think that I could continue on through it. However, I would occasionally look up and see Alex, Austin and Marcus reaching out to shake hands, say hello, or pass out candy and toys to the people living there and found motivation through them and their work. These people have so very little, if anything, but have smiles on their faces and are so appreciative that people care enough to come visit.

Following the trip to the dump, we traveled to an office to listen to a man (who was around my same age) talk about his life growing up at the dump. Wow. The stories of survival that he shared with us were beyond what any of us could ever comprehend. As I think about the differences between what I was doing around that same time in my life compared to his daily struggles, it provides a whole different perspective.  

At the end of his story, he gave us a call to action: help one person. We all have an obligation, a responsibility, a duty to make a difference in the life of at least one. When I step back and look at this man and think about his life growing up, I am amazed. He was able to persevere in dire circumstances, ultimately get an education and obtain two college degrees. He could probably have created a whole different life for himself and his family in another place far away but chose to return home to Korah in order to make a difference in his community. He truly defines what it means to be a servant leader, and I hope that we will all be able to take his advice to heart.

As I watch these three young men take in this extraordinary experience, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride in them, their team, and our institution. They have opened their hearts and visited with so many people and children, put so many smiles on young faces, and truly been outstanding representatives of UK.

Marcus McWilson is among three Kentucky football players serving in Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics) Marcus McWilson is among three Kentucky football players serving in Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics)
This week, Alex Montgomery, Austin MacGinnis and Marcus McWilson are on UK football's annual service trip to Ethiopia. Over the coming days, they will take turns sharing their experiences in a series of Cat Scratches blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

It's day two for us here in Ethiopia and it's such a blessing that we have the opportunity to put smiles on so many faces.

This morning as I got out of bed getting ready for the day I have to say I was overwhelmed with excitement and very anxious. I know that all of us were ready to see what God had in store for us, so we packed our bags and headed out.

As we're driving around it's a humbling experience seeing how much people struggle every day. People come from nothing, have nothing and leave with less but they have smiles on their faces because it's a new day. Knowing we can make a difference in a life is the best thing for me because I love making someone smile.

This afternoon repairing houses was a lot different from what I'm used to, but we were all able to adapt and help in any way possible. The houses aren't your typical brick and stone houses; they're made from sticks and mud clumped and molded together and made from the ground up. Once we figured out what we could do to help we were all in, from playing with the kids to handy work with hammers and nails.

We also gave out mattresses, which was heartbreaking because some people had never slept on beds. At times I feel like I'm not doing enough because there are so many people in need and I want to help them all. Tomorrow cannot come soon enough!

Alex Montgomery is on an athletics department-sponsored service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics) Alex Montgomery is on an athletics department-sponsored service trip to Ethiopia this week. (Nicolette McLaughlin, UK Athletics)
This week, Alex Montgomery, Austin MacGinnis and Marcus McWilson are on UK football's annual service trip to Ethiopia. Over the coming days, they will take turns sharing their experiences in a series of Cat Scratches blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

I would start this off by saying the flight was terrible and I never want to do it again, but then I would be lying because traveling is a part of the process. Yes, there were a few times that I wanted to turn around and go back home, but when I think about this trip and how life-changing it will be for me I said, I can do it.


The flight wasn't too bad because we all slept for majority of it. When we first landed I was so nervous because I didn't know what to expect as in where are we staying, what are we eating, can I shower, can I brush my teeth. All of these things run through your head, but after speaking to our trip leaders I felt better because they let you know that everything and everyone is going to be fine. Today is our first day going out so as soon as I get back I'll finish this day one blog.

(Eight hours later)

I'm back now, sorry for the long pause, but I can officially say our first day here is over! This morning I was a little hesitant because I didn't want to be too pushy or too laid-back like I usually am. So I told myself whatever you do today, Alex, just be you and to make someone else's day! So we set out to do just that.

First you're just driving through this amazingly different city with a lot of different things going on like their driving, the buildings, the people. I just wanted to stop and help everyone but unfortunately I can't. So we're finally on this dirt road where there are huge bumps, goats and donkeys. I really enjoyed looking at the donkeys though just because they all reminded me of Donkey from Shrek.

After that, we finally got to one family's house and we were shocked to see it had no roof and barely any walls. We got right to work, without a question. After a few hours of work fixing their home, the lady was so happy. She said, "Thanks for making my house beautiful," but I wanted to thank her for just showing me that it doesn't take a million dollars to make someone's day.

Bud Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 22nd pick in the NFL Draft. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
By the time the Pittsburgh Steelers were finally on the clock with the 22nd pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Kentucky outside linebacker Bud Dupree was not a name experts anticipated to be still available.

When Thursday night proved otherwise, the six-time Super Bowl champions wasted no time in making Dupree the newest member of their storied franchise.

"It's a great experience right now," Dupree said. "I'm so blessed to be in this situation. I can't wait to get to Pittsburgh and get to work."

Riding high off the momentum of 7.5 sacks in a first team All-SEC senior season, Dupree became a household name among NFL general managers following his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. The 6-foot-4 former Georgia high school basketball state champion recorded a remarkable 4.56-second 40-yard dash and 42-inch vertical leap.

"This young man has some measurables," said ESPN analyst and Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden. "He can jump right out of the gym. ... I like the way he competes."

Dupree joins a once-historical Steelers defense in desperate need of youthful rejuvenation. Pittsburgh saw longtime defensive standouts Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, as well as 27-year-old Jason Worilds, retire this offseason. The Steelers ranked 18th in total defense in 2014.

"He has position versatility," Gruden said. "Keith Butler, the new defensive coordinator, has to be happy that Bud Dupree fell this far down the board. Hard to find a young man with this type of strength, speed, and power."

Dupree becomes UK's 14th first round selection in program history, and the first since 2003. The one-time tight end joins Danny Trevathan, Wesley Woodyard, and Avery Williamson as the fourth Kentucky linebacker in the NFL.

"They expect me to come in and have an impact right away," Dupree said. "I just have to prove them right and go in, work hard, listen to the older guys and the coaches and I'll be good."

While it was no secret that the Steelers would be looking toward the defensive side of the ball when making their first round selection, Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert shed light on the situation shortly before Thursday's big night.

"I think the cornerback group is good," Colbert said. "The outside linebacker types, which for us is a 4-3 defensive end for some 4-3 teams, this is probably as good a group at that position as I've seen in 10 to 15 years. It's really an exceptional group with a lot of impact-type guys."

Combined with the college statistics and the athletic measurements to back it up, Dupree's work ethic has football fans excited for the possibilities he brings to the table.

"He said he wore No. 2 (at Kentucky) because 'I'm trying to be No. 1, but I'm working like I'm No. 2,'" said ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. "You've got to like that attitude, you've got to like that approach of Alvin 'Bud' Dupree."

Dupree goes No. 22 overall to Steelers

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The wait was a little longer than expected for Bud Dupree, but the Kentucky star appears to have found a good landing spot.

Dupree landed in Pittsburgh as the No. 22 overall pick in the first round. He joins a Steeler team renowned for its defense, and especially its edge pass rushing. We'll have more on this as the night goes on and a story on Friday morning, but in the meantime we congratulate Bud!

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Video: Dupree walks gold carpet at NFL Draft

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Recent Comments

  • Tom Minney: Nice story about 3 outstanding young guys and the power of love. Debre Libanos is an outstanding place to visit, read more
  • Tsehai Alemayehu: It was great to meet you and the rest of your group yesterday in that funky restaurant in Fiche. As read more
  • Carla Blair: God is good! Be grateful for this experience. And this opportunity. read more
  • Bobby Dick: Always remember young man its not what you take its what you leave behind i pray to God you guys read more
  • Trublususu: I can't imagine what you guys are experiencing. Sounds like your first day was memorable. That woman will remember you read more
  • BJ Rassam: It's a good solid win for the 'Cats. read more
  • Robert L Jones Jr: I just want to say that I think coach Mitchell did a grate job explain what has happened to one read more
  • big d: very well said MR BARNHART SO PROUD OF THOSE YOUNG MEN. AND TO CALL MYSELF A BIG BLUE FAN AND read more
  • Guy Ramsey: We apologize, but we had some issues with the video on YouTube. Try watching it here now: http://www.ukathletics.com/blog/2015/05/video-catspys-senior-tribute.html. read more
  • Disappointed Fan: Why isn't the Senior Tribute Video posted? It's sad you aren't honoring your senior athletes, but you can post a read more