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For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

Today, Foster writes about a morning spent with a local youth soccer team on the Wildcats' last full day in Ethiopia.


Today was another very enjoyable day, as we were able to spend much more time with teenagers closer to our age. After breakfast, we traveled to a local private school. We were greeted by a teenage soccer team sporting blue Nike dri-fit tee shirts with white letters spelling out "Kentucky" on the front and their numbers on the back. The soccer team was there because Jason sponsors one of the players on the team, Natnael, and he invited his whole team to spend time with us.

The first part of the day was introducing ourselves to the soccer team and getting to know them. We ventured over to a shady area on school property where we could all sit down. After sitting down, the man in charge of the school talked to us and explained the whole mission of the school, as well as how many children are parts of the institution and how many are sponsored vs. those who are still looking for a sponsor.

While sitting down with the kids, they brought out the three most recent trophies the team has won, all won within the past year or so. Also, several women came out and made coffee, which is a ritual in Ethiopia. The other women then followed suit and offered up popcorn and roasted grain, which are also both commonly served during the daily coffee-drinking ceremonies.

During that time, we also sat with the team and enjoyed each other's company. A conversation about soccer sprung up and of course I jumped right in asking each of their favorite teams and players. Most of the kids were wearing pants affiliating themselves with some European soccer club. There, I was told that I looked like both Gareth Bale and David Beckham. I wish people back in the States believed I looked like David Beckham, too. Other than those conversations, we joked around and got to know each other, but the center of the conversation was always soccer.
 
After introductions, we headed across the parking lot, grabbed a few soccer balls from our parked bus and continued down a hill past the school and to the soccer field. Again, this soccer field was all dirt and rocks with wooden posts outlining the goals, although this one was a bit bigger. We started by juggling, then moved on to a more organized set of drills, which brought very vivid memories of my travel soccer days to mind. After a few of the passing drills, we got our teams ready, and we added their team coach to our roster (very much needed).

This team was very good and very well organized. We went down 3-1 but came back and tied it 3-3 with only 2 minutes or so left in the game. We then played a golden-goal overtime session, and we scored a few minutes in and got the victory which brought our Ethiopian soccer tour record to 3-1 - not too shabby for some American football players...and three Ethiopian footballers. It really was an enjoyable and entertaining game and it created that much more respect between us all.

After the game, we were all very hungry. Conveniently, we had a pizza party planned for lunch. The pizza was the best pizza that we had in Ethiopia: a meat lover's pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage and chicken. After passing out pizza to the team and savoring some ourselves, we thanked the team for giving us their time and hoped and prayed for their well-being in the future. A surprise gift was in store for Jason, as the ultra-shy teenager that he sponsors spoke in front of the entire group on behalf of his team thanking us for everything. It truly was a special moment.

Once we finished lunch, we headed out to a small zoo to see some Ethiopian lions. I've been told that you ultimately have to face your fears to get over them, so this was the time to truly get over my lifelong fear of Scar from "The Lion King." Ethiopian Lions are the only type of lions that have the dark brownish/black manes, which is their main distinguishing characteristic. It was amazing getting to see those huge animals in person, as well some monkeys and very unique deer, including two small baby deer.

After the zoo, we headed out to do some shopping and concluded the day by eating dinner. We then were dropped off at a guest house where Brett Johnson is staying. We started off by playing Ping-Pong, but the burning desire for some Wi-Fi access left Bud, Braylon and myself stranded on the steps of the stairs, as it seemed to be the only definite hot spot. After spending a little over an hour at that house, we started walking back towards a main road, and along the way Braylon screamed like a little girl (typical SEC running back style) after seeing a two-inch wide frog leap across his feet on the group. Even after that terrifying moment, we eventually reached the main road and successfully caught a taxi back to our own guest house.
 
For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

Today, Foster writes about meeting a husband and wife who are changing lives.


Our day began with the arrival of our fellow UK athletes from the swimming and diving team, Maclin Simpson and Lindsay Hill. They got right into the action and hopped on the bus as we set off to visit Abraham and his wife, Salem. Abraham visits UK every January and is very close to Coach Rock Oliver, and his wife runs an organization that makes and sells handmade items such as hats, baskets, jewelry, scarves and tablecloths. They hire most of their employees from the poorest area in Ethiopia, the city that we visited on Friday.

Not only do these people have exceptional talents of making these items, but Abraham and Salem are also helping provide them with work and fair pay. They, being Abraham and Salem, are helping fight poverty and strengthen Ethiopia's economy by creating work for the people who live off of food from the trash dump. Abraham also explained to us that in Ethiopia, men do most of the fabric making.

The products that were made at Salem's business were beautiful enough to receive interest from major American companies. However, they couldn't fulfill the orders due to the substantial quantity ordered as each piece takes a significant amount of time to make. After coffee and tea with Abraham and his wife and a little bit of shopping, Abraham took us to learn firsthand about community initiatives that the business financially supports.

The first was a library. The library was more than just a library, though, as we arrived there right around lunchtime and saw many students filing in to be served lunch. Abraham said that they provide free lunch to any student who can't afford it, so they don't have to continue the rest of the school day being hungry and wondering where their next meal will come. He estimated that 70-80 kids use the library each day.

Not only does the program provide lunch, but it also provides books, computer use and standardized test prep and practice books. Abraham was ecstatic and pleasantly surprised to learn that both Kaleab and Girma, two of our translating friends, had used this program as recently as a few months ago. That just reiterated the importance of the program and how the children really do use and benefit from it.

After leaving the library, we headed to lunch at this pizza place where Bud continued his trend of getting his food last, this time because when he ordered a pizza he told the waitress everything he did NOT want on the pizza, but she thought he said that's what he wanted on the pizza, so they had to make him another one. Also, while at the restaurant we ran into a couple from Louisville, Ky. ... what a small world. After leaving the restaurant, we headed to the Hope Center.

This center was managed by a man by the name of Jeremiah, who is the house dad. He is in charge of "recruiting" kids off of the street by telling them his story and showing them they can change their lives. He then takes them off of the street and into this house, and all Jeremiah and Abraham ask of them is to be open-minded to the change in lifestyle.

Today, all 25-30 of us gathered to introduce ourselves. After each of the old and new teenage members of the house introduced themselves, there was one common denominator: Jeremiah was a wonderful house dad who truly had changed their lives for the better. Jeremiah finished the introductions by telling his touching and emotional story that has many similarities to stories of college and professional football players here in America. He abused alcohol and drugs trying to fulfill himself, but then was ultimately healed by family members and his faith. He provided such detail in the story that made it easy to picture yourself in his situation and completely understand the circumstances he went through.

It was very special to see someone do a 180-degree change in lifestyle and not just stop there, but wanting to provide other kids going through similar situations a way out if they allow him a way in to their lives. Once the seriousness of the life stories concluded, we all wanted to lighten the mood by going outside and kick and throw the Ethiopian and American footballs. As it has been this entire trip, it was so enjoyable trying to teach them how to throw this foreign oblong object.

After throwing the football for a while, I wanted to join them in what they are much more familiar with, as am I: kicking a soccer ball. We had a blast showing each other the moves we know and juggling in a circle, and I even ended the day being compared to Liverpool's Luis Suarez (I don't see it). It was such a wonderful day being able to see how Abraham and his wife's vision has had and continues to have such a powerful and positive effect on kids of all ages.

The lowlight and highlight of the night happened on the way to dinner to Bud and Braylon, respectively. The lowlight was when Bud, once again, was the victim of an attempted pick-pocketing crime. I don't know why in the world they would choose a 6-foot-4, 275-pound man who tackles guys for a living to steal from, but luckily Bud caught them in the act and pushed them away.

The highlight was when Braylon made eye contact with a local Ethiopian who ended up following us all of the way to cupcake and sat down by herself right next to our table and would not take her eyes off of Braylon. It was the topic of conversation at our end of the table for the first 15 minutes of dinner until we realized Braylon wouldn't go sit with her no matter how much we pestered him.

We ended the day having dinner at a restaurant called Cupcake, which to my surprise, had much more than just cupcakes. I had an awesome chicken pesto Panini, with Jason copying my order. And of course, Jason also stole the last piece of red velvet cake they had left, but it's OK...he was just looking after my body composition for Coach Korem.


For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

Next, Foster writes about a day spent relaxing and taking in a soccer game.


Today was scheduled as a much-needed relaxing day. After three consecutive long and tiring days, we finally had a chance to some rest to a second wind for the second half of the trip coming up.

We were able to sleep in a little bit, and then we met downstairs around 8:30 to head to a relatively nice gym named Bole Rock. As we walked to the gym, we were consistently pestered and followed by locals anywhere from the age of 3 to around 50 or 60 begging for money. Once we got to the gym, the begging ended but the attention didn't. We all are much, much bigger than the typical Ethiopian, so once we got upstairs to the gym area, which couldn't be more than 1,500 or 2,000 square feet, all eyes were on us - for Bud and Braylon being so built and me being an obvious foreigner. The workout went very well, but it was hard finding enough plates for Bud and Braylon. Once we did, every time one of us went to lift, all six local in the gym stopped to watch. After our workout, we started our 15-minute trek back to the guest house, and upon our arrival, we had our typical breakfast -- French toast and eggs -- with Bud getting a double order of course. We took a quick shower and we were ready for an optional 11:15 church service.

We arrived a little early, around 11. The worship songs started around between 11:15 and 11:30 and lasted for at least an hour. It was as if it was a game to see who could stand up the entire first hour of the worship. Most people lasted for the first 30 minutes of the music, but after that people started dropping out like flies and sitting down. After the worship singing, a group of missionaries from a Chicago church performed an awesome five-minute dance on stage.

Then, the preaching finally started, after what was the typical length of an entire service here (90 minutes or so). The service was very entertaining, however. The preaching was led by an Amharic-speaking pastor of another church and translated by the English-speaking pastor of the Beza church. It was a wonderful service talking about knowing your true inner self and used the metaphor of our body and flesh being a clay pot. It was an atypical church service for most, if not all, of us, but the consensus was that it spoke a great message, with a fun, upbeat preaching style and translation with a bit long of a worship singing segment.

We then headed to lunch, where Bud and Braylon ordered an entire chicken. I stuck with just half of a chicken. After lunch, we stopped back by our guest house, changed and then we were ready for the soccer game in the afternoon afternoon between the women's national teams from Ghana and Ethiopia. We all went in going to cheer for Ethiopia, except for Gabe, since his parents are from Ghana. Gabe got lucky and felt even more at home after realizing we were sitting in the Ghana section, so he felt that much more comfortable cheering for Ghana after each of their two goals in the 2-0 victory. The most shocking thing to me was the fact that the ambassadors, the most respected and important people, sat literally one row in front of us. We all had plenty of fun during the game and took lots pictures after the game -- even one with the referee crew. After the game, we headed back to the guest house for dinner and put an end to this relaxing day.

In the two months since the launch of BBN First, we've been listening. Now it's time to begin turning all that feedback into action.

A few common themes have already emerged as we've sorted through your suggestions, but there's one that sticks out to me as something that we need to address immediately: rewarding loyalty.

There isn't a fan base in the world more loyal than the Big Blue Nation. Today, we begin an ongoing effort to recognize and reward that.

As a first step, we are announcing a K Fund priority point bonus for football season ticket holders who have been with us for three or more consecutive years, including 2014. The bonus will start at 15 points for those who have purchased season tickets since the 2012 season and go all the way up to 75 points for fans who have purchased season tickets since the 2000 season or earlier according to the following scale.

Last 15+ years - 75 points
Last 14 years - 70 points
Last 13 years - 65 points
Last 12 years - 60 points
Last 11 years - 55 points
Last 10 years - 50 points
Last 9 years - 45 points
Last 8 years - 40 points
Last 7 years - 35 points
Last 6 years - 30 points
Last 5 years - 25 points
Last 4 years - 20 points
Last 3 years - 15 points

As you know, K Fund priority points are very important right now because the order in which fans select their seats for 2015 in The New CWS will be based on K Fund priority ranking as of June 30, 2014. Our Fan Experience Committee designed this reward as a way to show fans who have stayed with us how much they matter. In total, more than 8,000 accounts will receive point bonuses in their K Fund accounts by the end of the month.

We believe this is a meaningful reward, but it's only a start in recognizing fan loyalty across all 22 of our sports. This summer we are going to work through the details of what a new loyalty rewards program will look like.

That's where you come in.

We have some exciting thoughts about what this program can become, but we need your help. What does loyalty mean to you? What kind of rewards would you like to see? What do you think the program should be called? Send in your suggestions using the contact form on UKathletics.com/BBNfirst or by emailing BBNfirst@uky.edu.

This season has been a fun ride. We're on pace for our best finish ever in the national all-sports standings and we know it would not have been possible without the Big Blue Nation. We want to make sure we show that in everything we do.

'Til the Battle Is Won,
Mitch Barnhart

For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

To start, Foster writes about a day spent visiting local jails and playing soccer with locals.


Today was expected to be a very long day, and that expectation was proven to be true. Our day started earlier than usual as we had around two hours of traveling to Debre Zeit, a city south of Addis. After breakfast and a long drive that many of us spent sleeping, we arrived at Sammy and Ruth's house. Sammy and Ruth are a husband and wife originally from India who moved here to serve young Ethiopians.

Our first task of the day was to create goodie bags of personal soap, laundry detergent and a few other things. Once that was finished, we headed to the backyard to make to-go boxes filled with a hot meal consisting of injera (sour, spongy, traditional Ethiopian food) and a red, spicy sauce made with sheep meat. The sheep was bought, slaughtered and cooked all within 24 hours! We prepared over 30 hot meals for the prisoners and police officers we were about to visit. We then had about 30 minutes of free time after all of the goodies were packed up on the bus, so we played with their two daughters, who are both absolute joys, for the remainder of the time. During that time, we played soccer, introduced them to a football, and then the ultimate winner was when I threw them up in the air to let them "fly." Also, during this time, I asked the older daughter if she wanted gum, and I believe I created an addiction, because she asked me for gum at least 15 different times during the remainder of today.

When the time came, we boarded the bus and set out for several different jails. Once we arrived at the first one, I was very surprised to see how small this prison was. It had three main holding cells, each with about five or six inmates. The security seemed very, very relaxed and the walls to the prison area were about four or five feet tall, just asking to be jumped. We then served lunch -- the sheep stew, injera and a banana -- along with giving each prisoner and police officer a t-shirt and a personal care goodie bag.

After visiting with the prisoners and policemen of two different prisons, we headed back to Sammy's to have a traditional lunch. Sammy and his family were very hospitable and welcomed us into their house with open hearts. Sammy had prepared some traditional Indian cuisine of curry with pita bread, some traditional Ethiopian cuisine of sheep and injera, and fresh mangoes and bananas. It became obvious how talented of a cook Sammy is after the first bite of the traditional Indian cuisine. After introducing ourselves and receiving a rose as a welcoming gift, we helped clean up the room of our plates and packed up some more items onto the bus to take to some widows' houses.

We packed up the bus and headed out to visit some widows and bless them with some essential foods and necessities. The desperation and need for help was obvious at each of the five widows' houses that we stopped at. Many of their houses were smaller than a typical bedroom in the United States -- roughly 10 feet by 10 feet with concrete or dirt floors. We also had the privilege of praying over them and praying for their future well-being and thanking God for allowing us the ability and resources to travel to them and provide a few items for each of them. It was truly a blessing, as it has been this whole trip, to be able to provide for people and seeing their reaction of gratitude is beyond satisfying.


By the time we finished visiting the last of the five widows we planned to see, it was already 3:45. I say, "already," because there had apparently been a small soccer tournament scheduled around our visit at around 4. We drove to the area that we were about to play at, and I can't say that I had ever played on a field like that. This "field" was all dirt; not a single blade of grass had grown on it. The goals were made out of timber found around the village, and as no surprise, had no net. On one side of the field was a stone-lined gutter/ditch, while the other side had a small hill, and the field seemed to be located in the center of several housing villages.

Upon arriving at the field, there were around ten younger children who were quick to greet us after getting off of the bus, and about five or six young adults about the same age as us warming up on one of the goals. We brought out both a soccer ball and a football to play with and teach the kids about American football. After 20 minutes or so of just kicking the soccer ball around and throwing the football, many locals must have heard about our arrival and had made their way to this field. We started to seriously get ready for the games we were about to play.

We got the teams set, our group and our three translators vs. their group, and then we kicked off. We played three games in a row, winning the first two and losing the last one. We, without a doubt, shocked many people, me included, with how well we played. Catching your breath during exercise here in Ethiopia is much more difficult, because it is around 9,000 or 10,000 feet above sea level. The important thing about these soccer games was just being able to show the kids in the village that we cared about them. And when there is such a language barrier, the best way to communicate is through sports.

We then headed out after coffee at Sammy and Ruth's and had the long drive back to the guest house in Addis. I don't know what it is, but the bus rides rock us to sleep like babies, because within 10 minutes or so, we were all knocked out for the two-hour ride or so back to the guest house. We then had dinner and then headed upstairs to get some more sleep. That is after watching the Champion's League Final, of course, in true soccer watching style - an iffy, static picture with no sound. It was by far the worst quality picture I've watched any sporting event on in a long time, but I'm glad I did, so I can truly get a grasp on every aspect of the culture. The game ended in a disappointing fashion, in my personal opinion, as Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in extra time 4-1 after tying it up at one each only two minutes before the time had expired.

Today ended up being the most fun day of the trip up to this point. Growing up surrounded by soccer, I felt at home playing the three games today and then watching the game tonight. The important parts of the day were also rewarding, though. Helping the prisoners is something I have never done before, and honestly probably will not ever do again, but it was definitely a great experience doing it. Along with this fun day comes great exhaustion...therefore, goodnight! Tomorrow should be a much lighter day of rest, and it could not have been scheduled at a more perfect time.


For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

To start, Foster describes his first full day in Ethiopia, during which he met a special young man.


Writing this entry is going to be tough for several reasons. First, I am exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally. It was such a long day that brought both tears of joy and tears of sympathy. We started the day with breakfast -- our typical order of French toast with scrambled eggs (with peppers), some tea and coffee, and of course Sammy bear (the syrup brand).

After breakfast, we were headed to one of the poorest sections of Addis Ababa. Here, many people are forced to scavenge through the dump for everything necessary to survive due to the poor health of many of the people that reside there - a mixture of leprosy and HIV infected populations.

Once we parked, we headed to a local community center. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I could tell that this area was even worse than the areas we visited yesterday, as these living conditions can't get much worse. It was hard to believe I was about to venture into a territory like this, but I put my personal reservations behind me and was ready to face the reality of survival for the 130,000 people or that live there.

We walked about 15-20 minutes through the village until we arrived at the community center. We were greeted with joy and much gratitude by the leader of the center along with several women and a young male teenager, Dejene. In a small lawn in front were about 30-35 widowers and lepers who clearly were uplifted as soon as we walked in. We entered a room and began an assembly line to make "goodie bags" of necessities that these men and women probably only see once or twice a year, like macaroni, rice, sugar, soap, matches and another item or two. We filled 30 or so bags and then took them out on the concrete porch in front of the crowded lawn space.

Passing out these bags, just as it was yesterday, made me think so much of what I have back home and what I deem a true necessity. When I walked out to hand some of the bags out, I was greeted by so much constant gratitude and love in Amharic that saying "you're welcome" just didn't seem enough to me, but that's all I could do. The language barrier is so tough when you have so much to say but there isn't a way to verbally say it all. This is where the nonverbal gestures became the primary source of communication. Just a smile from us put an amazing sense of security and gratitude on their faces. It was humbling being able to truly change someone's day, week, month and even year just by a simple smile and a bag of truly basic necessities.

Once we finished passing out the bags, it was brought to our attention that many of these people, due to their leprosy or weakness from malnutrition and their living conditions, could not possibly carry the bags back to their homes. Therefore, we carried the bags through the dump to their houses. I happened to be carrying two bags as two people lived near each other in the same area.  Remember Dejene, that boy that I met earlier? He for some reason tagged along with me and asked several times to carry a bag for me but I declined the first several times until about 20 minutes into the walk, I was getting a little sore and he could tell so he simply took one from me.

I found out he spoke English after trying to speak Amharic to him saying, "Hey, what's up, how old are you?" in Amharic. He simply replied in pretty good English, "What's up, I'm 15. How old are you?" I still answered in Amharic saying "Hiya (20)." It was pretty funny looking back at it, swapping the norm of languages. We finally arrived at the ladies house and her son, who spoke very little English, greeted me, but his gratitude was also easily expressed. The floor of her house was all mud. Mud walls reinforced by tree limbs created some shelter but there were many leaks that proved to be devastating during the rainy season. After saying a quick prayer for her safety, health and thanking Him for allowing us to be able to provide support to her, we said our goodbyes and headed back.

On our way back we passed what seemed to be tin/aluminum garbage receptacle, but I was then informed that is where the nightly guard sleeps. The box couldn't have been six feet long and four feet wide and tall. We eventually got back to the community center where we busted out some Ethiopian footballs (soccer balls) that we had brought with us. Myself, Gabe, Wario and Dejene began passing the ball and juggling in a circle until I worked up quite a sweat. My touch had pretty obviously gotten worse since the last time I had touched a soccer ball (four years ago) but there was so much joy playing a game that the locals and I all love.

We then walked out of the church and saw some local kids (around 8-12 years old) and asked them if they wanted to play. They took us to what they called a field, but I would call it more of a rock-filled dirt patch that was on a slope and had several boulders sticking out of the ground. Goals were set up using bigger rocks and we had our makeshift field set, home-field advantage clearly going to the locals. The teams were quickly set with Gabe, Wario, Girma, Dejene, Bud and me making one team and what seemed to be at least 10-12 local kids making up the other. Seeing and playing soccer with Bud is one of the highlights in my life. Seeing a 6-foot-4 275-pound future NFL defensive end hesitate to go up for a header against some 5-foot, 120-pound kids is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. He eventually got the hang of it and started playing like a natural, other than the fact that most soccer players are as gigantic as he is. I hadn't had that much fun playing soccer, or any sport for that matter, in a long time. It truly is amazing how we as Americans can travel thousands of miles into Ethiopia where there is no common verbal communication, but the game of soccer itself becomes the form of communication and forms a bond with the local Ethiopians just by playing with them and sharing our time and love for them.


After we won the soccer game, we headed back to the church to meet up and get ready for lunch. Dejene was always right by my side everywhere we went, and it gave me so much time and opportunity to break him out of his shell. He was very shy at first, which made me have to keep the conversation going. I completely understood though, and I was starving for his life story and getting to know everything about him. We invited Dejene to come out to late lunch with us, so he followed us back to the bus and again, was never more than 3 feet away from me. From the bus ride to the restaurant, to the one-on-one "lunch date" with Dejene, to the bus ride back to take him home, there was some quality bonding time. I genuinely respect him and his story to the utmost extent.

This is a boy who never met his mother and lived with his father until he was around 8 or 9 years old when his father married. The woman he married had something against Dejene from day one. She would beat him and deny him any food or clothing or any level of caring for him. He was forced to move out on the streets around a year later just to survive.

It was there where he found his way into and out of an orphanage and being taken in by his best friend who is a few years older than him. He was then fortunate enough to be able to be sponsored, which gave him the funds for a private education along with guaranteed meals for the month. During his time at school, through all of this adversity, he achieved and maintained a 3.6 GPA until his sponsorship was abruptly cut. He was in 11th grade when his sponsorship was stopped, so he still needs two more years of school before he can take the Ethiopian national placement exam to see if he can go to the University. He loves biology and wants to be a cardiologist!

After the way he made me feel safe on our walk to deliver supplies earlier in the day, Dejene's name fittingly means "protector." We found a big-time common ground in our favorite TV show -- Prison Break. We also found similarities in our internal personal drives to succeed in life. Dejene fills the room with happiness and contentment every time he shows his huge, beautiful smile, even though it is tough to get it out of him sometimes.


I can't express how much Dejene already means to me and how much I care for him and want to return the favor and be his provider and protector. It brought me tears of joy when he told me how much he loved me and considered me family and how comfortable he felt around me. I really hope I am able to see him again, but we are already Facebook friends I am positive I will keep in touch with him, and hopefully I will be able to sponsor him, so he can go back to school and graduate. I see an amazing kid, with an amazing drive and work ethic who has lived through so much adversity, literally having no one to care for him. No mother, father, brothers, sisters or cousins. Obviously, I haven't had to live through anywhere close to the kind of adversity as he has, but I do understand the sense of loneliness that he has to be feeling. Being an only child, I missed out on being with brothers and sisters, and I truly wish I had a sibling to have that type of relationship with. I feel so remorseful, sympathize for him and empathize with him. I hope I will someday be able to bring him over to the United States to give him the opportunity of his life that he deserves to become the best cardiologist he can possibly be. Meeting Dejene and getting to know much of his story truly has inspired me to become a better person.

On our way back to the Addis Guest House, we stopped at a shoe store run by a woman who came through one of the programs at the community center headed by our friend and host, Mark. The shoes' soles are made from old tire treads, so they are very environmentally friendly.

With such an emotional and amazing day behind us, Bud provided us with humor throughout the day. Miscommunication due to the language barrier is expected, but the fact that there needs to be an intermediary translator to get from Bud's dialect to English that our translator friends can understand makes us laugh every day. However, today provided the best quotes by far.

Quotes of the day by Bud: 1) At dinner, Bud informs us that his last name isn't spelled Dupree, it's DuPree. His response "Yeah, I just found that out a few years ago."
2) After dinner tonight, our waiter comes to our table after being called over by Mark. We had just finished talking about room towels. Bud thinks Mark is calling him to inform him about our towel problem, but is in reality calling him over for the bill. Bud raises his hand and says to our waiter "Yeah, were going to need three regular towels and two hand towels." The waiter walks away puzzled. We all laugh.


Bud's quotes aside, it was an emotionally, physically and mentally draining day, but such a great and fulfilling one for me personally. Dejene will be a part of my life forever, and hopefully I can find a way to financially support him to continue and finish his schooling to give him the opportunity to become the cardiologist he dreams of being. As exhausted as I am, I still need to get these push-ups, abdominals, and squats in before I can get some much needed rest.

For a week in late May, a group of three Kentucky football players -- Bud Dupree, Landon Foster and Braylon Heard -- went one of two service trips to Ethiopia sponsored each summer by the UK Athletics Department accompanied by Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Jason Schlafer and Senior Athletic Trainer Gabe Amponsah. Foster, a junior punter, described his experience in a series of diary entries for Cat Scratches that will be published this week. Please note that these posts are Foster's personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky and UK Athletics.

To start, Foster describes three days of their journey, from a stop in Washington, D.C., to a long day of travel to their first hours in Ethiopia.


Day one - D.C.

Today was somewhat of a start on our Ethiopian journey. We made it all the way to Washington, D.C., with a stop in Cincinnati.


After landing, we claimed our bags and hopped on the hotel-airport shuttle bus to take us to our hotel.  before our private tour of Washington, D.C. After getting settled, we walked outside of the hotel and were greeted by our friendly Egyptian tour guide, Zuma.

Trying to retain all of the information that Zuma was giving to us was impossible. I actually ended up with a headache as soon as we arrived at our first stop, the United States Air Force Memorial. This memorial was beautiful and consisted of three very tall half arches that were outwardly curved in the center of two marble slab walls 40 yards to each side of the main arch attraction guarded by hulking statues of soldiers.

We left the U.S. Air Force Memorial and drove right past the Arlington National Cemetery that was located directly across the street and occupies an absurd amount of acreage. We then headed to downtown and passed the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol along with multiple historic buildings and monuments that featured some of the most amazing architecture I've ever seen.

We ultimately ended up stopping at only two more memorials, the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, which honors an individual that had more influence on civil rights and equality than I can even comprehend. Quotes from Dr. King lined the marble walls surrounding his statue, and my favorite was, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." This quote speaks so much truth to our nation as a whole, as well as to me personally.

After a great dinner, we took a taxi back to the hotel. Now, here I am, typing this journal entry while half-watching this Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers Game 2, after what would typically be a long day of traveling in my mind. Just thinking about tomorrow is exhausting.  Now time to get some rest before waking up in seven hours to get to the airport to fly on a plane for twice that long...or I might just stay up so I can sleep on the plane. Either way, today was an enjoyable, entertaining and fulfilling start of the trip.

Day two - Wheels up to Ethiopia

Welp, there's not a better time than now to write my journal entry of today than now...since we'll technically spend over 20 hours on this plane - 13 on the plane and seven more crossing time zones.  Today started early, around 6:30, to get up, pack, get some breakfast and take the shuttle to the airport. The flight wasn't until 11:00, but since it is an international flight, we were supposed to be there three hours early.


So far, this plane ride has been pretty smooth, and we are about four-and-a-half hours in. I've passed the time with Sports Illustrated articles, a ton of music and watching a movie. Now, here I am, typing this journal entry with my knees against this seat in front of me as a lady has already leaned her chair back as far as it can to go, and she is now trying to force the chair back even further, pushing with all of her will. I almost feel bad for 6-foot-4, 275-pound Bud Dupree sitting to my left in the dead middle of the plane while all 6-2 and 200 pounds of me has the aisle seat. Typical of me, I had so much planned and high hopes for getting things accomplished during this everlasting flight. However, since it is already around 11:00 p.m. Ethiopian time, I am going to head to the back of the plane, get in a couple stretches, go to the bathroom, and try to get some rest before landing around 7:30 a.m. Ethiopian time with a full day planned tomorrow.

And...here's a morning update: First, I have slept maybe a total of an hour and a half during the 12-plus hours we have been in the air thus far. Right now, my computer reads 11:10 p.m., which means it is around 6:10 a.m. Ethiopian time, and the last time I had any bit of sleep was about three hours ago. Since then I have finished one Sports Illustrated magazine, eaten breakfast and watched "Invictus," the story of Nelson Mandela's release from prison and his support of the South African National Rugby Team before and during the 1995 World Cup.

I couldn't help but notice some similarities between what we are doing on this trip to what was represented by the movie. President Mandela was so supportive of the team, because he believed backing the team for the World Cup would help unite the divided Republic of South Africa. It was during this time that he urged, well, demanded, the national team (which only had one black player on the roster) to go out to less fortunate villages and run youth rugby "camps." These villages, which were mostly made up of less fortunate black citizens in South Africa, knew very little about rugby, but fell in love with Chester, the lone black player on the team.

It was amazing seeing the nation coming together throughout the entire movie to support the national team. Also, the joy on the children's faces was unparalleled, and I hope that we as a group of football players from the University of Kentucky can instill half of the happiness that the team did in "Invictus." Now, it is around 6:30 a.m. Ethiopian time, and we are about 45 minutes from landing and starting (continuing) our day of events.

Day 3 - Only the beginning

Looking back on today, I don't even really know how or when to begin.

We landed in Ethiopia around 8 a.m. local time after a 14-hour flight during which none of us, other than Jason, got more than two hours of sleep total. Once we landed, we proceeded to go through customs. After making it through and claiming our bags, we were greeted by our photographer for the trip, Jeff. He guided us through the airport parking lot to our large van guarded by the rest of our group, guides and interpreters. We quickly loaded the bus with our luggage and headed to the guesthouse where we are staying, the Addis Guesthouse.

Once we arrived, we dropped our bags off in our rooms and headed downstairs and outside to consume our second breakfast of the morning. After breakfast, we quickly changed, packed up our gear, boarded the bus and began our 15-minute ride to a local community center. Demmis, the founder of the program that provides support to local widows, greeted us when we arrived. We were divided into three different teams to perform different tasks. Braylon and our interpreter/friend Girma were chosen, with the help of an expert in the area, to re-roof the grass roof on the round cultural house right outside of the church. Bud, Brett and another of our Ethiopian friends, Kaleab, went along with one carpenter, while Gabe, our Ethiopian friend Wario and I teamed up with another carpenter to perform both fixes and upgrades to mud stucco houses.


Our house needed one of the mud walls to be torn down and lots more work. After redesigning the infrastructure of that wall, we nailed heavy plastic tarp around the inside of this 8-foot by 8-foot house to keep it dry.

Imagining staying one night in one of these houses, or shelters, is hard to comprehend by itself. That reality sets in even more during days like today, in the midst of the rainy season where it gets very windy and chilly along with the daily storms. The joy shown by these Ethiopians affected by such poverty is an amazing sight to see that can only make people like me more thankful for what I have.

One common theme throughout the day today was how important interaction and the idea of togetherness are in this community. Coffee, even though it is expensive, is served as a ritual around three times a day, which forms bonds as they typically travel hut to hut or house to house each time during the day. Their happiness in the community truly is a testament to their connectedness to one another.

After finishing up all of the repairs on the houses, each group returned to the community center, and we were greeted by a line of beautiful widows and a few of their children. It was then when you could truly see the thankfulness and sense of relief on each of their faces when we handed out bags filled with food, bed sheets and a blanket, as well as a mattress and bed frame set to some. That was a very exciting moment for me, because you get to see the widow's reaction to being gifted food and a place to sleep first hand. Clean bed sheets, a pillow, and even a mattress are all things that I definitely have taken for granted growing up in ever-so-sheltered Franklin, Tenn.

After finishing passing out "the goodies," a couple of the widows needed help getting their newfound sleeping arrangements back to their houses, so we all lent a hand, or two, walking at least 20 minutes one way to drop off one woman's new possessions.

From there, we walked back to the Church, picked up our bags, and boarded the bus to get back to the Addis Guesthouse, where we ended up eating a wonderful group dinner with our Ethiopian friends. Here, we were finally able to connect to Wi-Fi for the first time since landing in Ethiopia, allowing us to contact our friends and family to ensure them we had arrived safely. The rest of the dinner was spent talking about sports, reflecting on the sights and events of the day, and discussing plans for tomorrow. But now, it is time to rest. At last, a good night's sleep hopefully lies in front of me. Until tomorrow.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference on Monday announced a 12-year rotation of non-division opponents for SEC football schedules through 2025.

The athletic directors re-confirmed the rotation at their May meeting following the decision to continue playing an eight-game conference schedule, to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents.   One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each season.

Monday's announcement pertains to the rotating non-division opponents.  The rotation begins with the 2014 season and concludes with the 2025 season.   Schools will play all permanent opponents on a home and away basis beginning in 2014.

Schools will not play their non-divisional rotating opponents in back-to-back seasons to allow for schools to play all conference members on a more frequent basis.  Also, the rotation of teams in the first six years of the 12-year cycle is not identical to the rotation in the second six years in order to maintain four home games and four road games per season for each school.

Following are the rotating opponents for SEC schools from 2014-25 ("vs." indicates a home game and "at" indicates an away game):

KENTUCKY - 2014 at LSU; 2015 vs. Auburn; 2016 at Alabama; 2017 vs. Ole Miss; 2018 at Texas A&M; 2019 vs. Arkansas; 2020 at Auburn; 2021 vs. LSU; 2022 at Ole Miss; 2023 vs. Alabama; 2024 at Arkansas; 2025 vs. Texas A&M.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State; Away - Florida, Missouri, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

ALABAMA - 2014 vs. Florida; 2015 at Georgia; 2016 vs. Kentucky; 2017 at Vanderbilt; 2018 vs. Missouri; 2019 at South Carolina; 2020 vs. Georgia; 2021 at Florida; 2022 vs. Vanderbilt; 2023 at Kentucky; 2024 vs. South Carolina; 2025 at Missouri.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M; Away - Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

ARKANSAS
- 2014 vs. Georgia; 2015 at Tennessee; 2016 vs. Florida; 2017 at South Carolina; 2018 vs. Vanderbilt; 2019 at Kentucky; 2020 vs. Tennessee; 2021 at Georgia; 2022 vs. South Carolina; 2023 at Florida; 2024 vs. Kentucky, 2025 at Vanderbilt.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss; Away - Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Missouri.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

AUBURN - 2014 vs. South Carolina; 2015 at Kentucky; 2016 vs. Vanderbilt; 2017 at Missouri; 2018 vs. Tennessee; 2019 at Florida; 2020 vs. Kentucky; 2021 at South Carolina; 2022 vs. Missouri; 2023 at Vanderbilt; 2024 vs. Florida; 2025 at Tennessee.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M; Away - Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

FLORIDA
- 2014 at Alabama; 2015 vs. Ole Miss; 2016 at Arkansas; 2017 vs. Texas A&M; 2018 at Mississippi State; 2019 vs. Auburn; 2020 at Ole Miss; 2021 vs. Alabama; 2022 at Texas A&M; 2023 vs. Arkansas; 2024 at Auburn; 2025 vs. Mississippi State.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, LSU; Away - Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

GEORGIA - 2014 at Arkansas; 2015 vs. Alabama; 2016 at Ole Miss; 2017 vs. Mississippi State; 2018 at LSU; 2019 vs. Texas A&M; 2020 at Alabama; 2021 vs. Arkansas; 2022 at Mississippi State; 2023 vs. Ole Miss; 2024 at Texas A&M; 2025 vs. LSU.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn; Away - Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

LSU - 2014 vs. Kentucky; 2015 at South Carolina; 2016 vs. Missouri; 2017 at Tennessee; 2018 vs. Georgia; 2019 at Vanderbilt; 2020 vs. South Carolina; 2021 at Kentucky; 2022 vs. Tennessee; 2023 at Missouri; 2024 vs. Vanderbilt; 2025 at Georgia.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State; Away - Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

OLE MISS - 2014 vs. Tennessee; 2015 at Florida; 2016 vs. Georgia; 2017 at Kentucky; 2018 vs. South Carolina; 2019 at Missouri; 2020 vs. Florida; 2021 at Tennessee; 2022 vs. Kentucky; 2023 at Georgia; 2024 vs. Missouri; 2025 at South Carolina.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State; Away - Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

MISSISSIPPI STATE - 2014 vs. Vanderbilt; 2015 at Missouri; 2016 vs. South Carolina; 2017 at Georgia; 2018 vs. Florida; 2019 at Tennessee; 2020 vs. Missouri; 2021 at Vanderbilt; 2022 vs. Georgia; 2023 at South Carolina; 2024 vs. Tennessee; 2025 at Florida.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M; Away - Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

MISSOURI - 2014 at Texas A&M; 2015 vs. Mississippi State; 2016 at LSU; 2017 vs. Auburn; 2018 at Alabama; 2019 vs. Ole Miss; 2020 at Mississippi State; 2021 vs. Texas A&M; 2022 at Auburn; 2023 vs. LSU; 2024 at Ole Miss; 2025 vs. Alabama. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas; Away - Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

SOUTH CAROLINA
- 2014 at Auburn; 2015 vs. LSU; 2016 at Mississippi State; 2017 vs. Arkansas; 2018 at Ole Miss; 2019 vs. Alabama; 2020 at LSU; 2021 vs. Auburn; 2022 at Arkansas; 2023 vs. Mississippi State; 2024 at Alabama; 2025 vs. Ole Miss.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M; Away - Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

TEXAS A&M - 2014 vs. Missouri; 2015 at Vanderbilt; 2016 vs. Tennessee; 2017 at Florida; 2018 vs. Kentucky; 2019 at Georgia; 2020 vs. Vanderbilt; 2021 at Missouri; 2022 vs. Florida; 2023 at Tennessee; 2024 vs. Georgia; 2025 at Kentucky. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss; Away - Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

TENNESSEE
- 2014 at Ole Miss; 2015 vs. Arkansas; 2016 at Texas A&M; 2017 vs. LSU; 2018 at Auburn; 2019 vs. Mississippi State; 2020 at Arkansas; 2021 vs. Ole Miss; 2022 at LSU; 2023 vs. Texas A&M; 2024 at Mississippi State; 2025 vs. Auburn. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama; Away - Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

VANDERBILT - 2014 at Mississippi State; 2015 vs. Texas A&M; 2016 at Auburn; 2017 vs. Alabama; 2018 at Arkansas; 2019 vs. LSU; 2020 at Texas A&M; 2021 vs. Mississippi State; 2022 at Alabama; 2023 vs. Auburn; 2024 at LSU; 2025 vs. Arkansas.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss; Away - Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

2014 spring game pump-up video

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SECNetwork_FacebookTwitter_UTMartin.jpg The SEC Network, it's coming.

You've known about the launch of the new network, which will cover America's best sports conference in unprecedented fashion, for months now, but it became just a little more real on Thursday.

The SEC Network announced its television schedule for the first three weeks of the 2014 football season and Kentucky will be featured twice. The Wildcats will play two of their first three games on the SEC Network, hosting Tennessee-Martin for their season opener on Aug. 30 at noon ET and traveling to face Florida on Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET for both teams' SEC opener.

This is significant because the SEC Network will be the only place fans will be able to watch these two games, other than in person. So far, cable and satellite providers AT&T U-Verse, DISH, Google Fiber and National Rural Telecommunications cooperative (NRTC) have agreed to carry the SEC Network. If your provider has not yet signed on, visit GetSECNetwork.com to demand the SEC Network.

UK isn't the only SEC school that will play early-season games on the SEC Network. In fact, the SEC Network will air a home game for each of the league's 14 schools within the first four weeks of the season.

"The fact that the SEC Network will originate a game from every stadium in the conference in the first four weeks of the 2014 season is testament to the depth of coverage fans can expect from the network," said Mike Slive, SEC commissioner. "In just the first month of the season, fans that get the network will enjoy all the passion and pageantry of SEC football from 14 of the greatest venues in the world of sports. This is what the SEC Network is all about."

The SEC Network -- which launches on Aug. 14 -- will carry its first football games on the season's first night, with Texas A&M and South Carolina and Vanderbilt and Temple playing a doubleheader. In total, six games will air on the SEC Network in each of the season's first two weeks and three more in both weeks three and four.

"The network will have a terrific line-up of games over the first four weeks. The schedule includes quality and depth from across the conference," said Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president, college networks. "The full breadth of teams and stadiums showcased in the first month alone speaks volumes on the type of programming sports fans should expect on the SEC Network."

The complete SEC Network schedule for the first four weeks of the season can be found below. Kickoff times and television information for the remainder of SEC games will be announced later.

 2014 SEC College Football Schedule (subject to change):

Date

Time (ET)

Game

Thu, Aug. 28

6 p.m.

Texas A&M at South Carolina

 

9:15 p.m.

Temple at Vanderbilt

Sat, Aug. 30

Noon

Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky

 

4 p.m.

Arkansas at Auburn

 

7:30 p.m.

Southern Mississippi at Mississippi State

Sun, Aug. 31

7 p.m.

Utah State at Tennessee

Sat, Sept. 6

Noon

Florida Atlantic at Alabama

 

Noon

Arkansas State at Tennessee

 

4 p.m.

Eastern Michigan at Florida

 

4 p.m.

Nicholls State at Arkansas

 

7:30 p.m.

Sam Houston State at LSU

 

7:30 p.m.

Lamar at Texas A&M

Sat, Sept. 13

Noon

UCF at Missouri

 

4 p.m.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Ole Miss

 

7:30 p.m.

Kentucky at Florida

Sat, Sept. 20

Noon

Troy at Georgia

 

4 p.m.

TBD

 

7:30 p.m.

TBD


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