In UK's following matchup against top-ranked Mississippi State, UK senior defensive end/linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree appeared throughout the game on special teams. He made a tackle on kickoff coverage vs. the Bulldogs, his first special-teams tackle of the year, and finished with a game-best 10 stops.
A member of the Chuck Bednarick and Bronko Nagurski Trophy preseason watch lists, given annually to the nation's top defender, Dupree has established himself as one of the top players in college football. A maximum effort, high-motor player, Dupree could certainly utilize special teams as an opportunity to get some well-deserved rest.
That's not him, however. Dupree is focused on his team and is willing to do anything in his power to help push the Wildcats closer to wins.
"There's no doubt (Dupree is a leader)," UK second-year head coach Mark Stoops. "A guy like (former UK linebacker and current Tennessee Titan) Avery (Williamson) was a great example for him and to see. He didn't have to last year because Avery was such a strong, vocal leader. And then once Avery left, Bud knew he had to step up into that role and he's really done a nice job."
The Southeastern Conference's active career sack leader, Dupree leadership growth was in part fostered by UK's effort at maximizing off the field training under Stoops. Dupree has worked with Jason Cummins, who heads UK's Impact Leadership Program, to become a vocal presence in the locker room.
"(Cummins) gave me the key role to get outside of my shell and not only benefit myself but benefit the team," Dupree said in the preseason at SEC Media Days. "Sometimes I may be a little too involved in my team than I should be because I will go out the way to do everything I need for my team to be successful."
In college athletics, leadership from key players is a largely unnoticed aspect of success. Individual leadership from standouts Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Andre Woodson and Wesley Woodyard played large roles in some of UK's recent bowl teams.
A native of Irwinton, Ga., Dupree is hoping to add his name to that list as a UK great that who helped pace his team to a postseason berth. He'll take the field as a captain at Memorial Stadium for a chance at that sixth win when the Wildcats travel to face Missouri at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.
While Stoops made the circuit of luncheons, media opportunities and speaking engagements in the preseason, he was not bashful about declaring that Dupree could be a first-round draft pick in 2014.
A 6-foot-4, 268-pound hybrid defender, Dupree owns jaw-dropping athleticism that suits his ever-changing role.
"He's got everything you're looking for," Stoops said on Thursday in his final pre-Missouri media opportunity. "He's got the size; he's explosive. He's very versatile. Like I say over and over, he could play in a 4-3 defense; he could play defensive end in a 3-4. He's really what they're looking for in a 3-4. He's athletic enough to play Sam, he could play the Jack. I think he's versatile enough to play at any linebacker position. And he picks things up. So physically he has what you want and obviously, he has the instincts, awareness and work ethic as well."
Dupree owns a 40.5-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot broad jump and runs at a top speed of nearly 22 miles per hour in full pads, earning him a moniker as one of the top-five athletic "freaks" in college football by NFL.com and Fox Sports.
While Stoops and UK fans have been on the Dupree bandwagon for a while, draft analysts and NFL scouts are starting to jump on board. In ESPN's "Big Board" from Mel Kiper, Dupree is listed as the 21st-best player in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"It's a blessing to be in that situation," Dupree said. "I just try to brush it off till the end of the season. I don't get a big head. It is all about the team and not me."
With 20 career sacks, Dupree ranks second in Kentucky history, just six sacks away from the record, held by Oliver Barnett (1986-89).
"At the end of the day, even if I don't get (the sack record) and if we win the rest of our games, it would be bigger for me as a person to win more games, than to get more sacks," Dupree said.
Dupree's emerging status as a leader just adds to his total package, something that will allow for success in the professional ranks.
"They're all looking for great team players and guys who can pick things up well and move him around and I think I've commented on that a few times that we do so much with him that we take for granted how much and how quickly he picks things up," Stoops said. "He's going to be a great pro."
On the field in his career, Dupree has surpassed the 200-tackle mark, owning 218 tackles - including 30.5 tackles for loss. Dupree's senior season has seen him amass 45 tackles, four sacks, a career-best five QB hurries, and a game-winning pick six in UK's thriller vs. South Carolina.