AutoZone Liberty Bowl Blog

Jan. 7, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tony Dixon

“After our Liberty Bowl win last weekend, I would like to thank my coaches, teammates, parents, girlfriend, team personnel and the fans for their contributions to the success of this team and throughout my years at Kentucky.

“The coaching staff here has changed me as a person into a better man. The coaches here are wonderful. They are your best friends and there to help you grow and prepare you for life. Every day you want to go to practice because it prepares you not only for the game but the real world. People who commit to the program will find that out.

“The UK fans are dedicated. We weren’t sure how many of them would travel with us but they sure showed up. We could hear them, especially towards the end of the game. I just want to thank you all for the support and let you know that having you there was big for us.

“In the days leading up to the game, I was just thinking that this was the last time that I was going to be doing this or that. A few of us were able to enjoy Memphis on New Year’s Eve with our friends and family. It was a great experience, the bowl staff treated us with a lot of respect and it was great to experience a different city and atmosphere surrounding a bowl game.

“Like I said, as a senior you are thinking about how it is the last time you go through a game with your football family. It was very emotional. On the bus ride from the hotel to the stadium, Coach Brooks asked me to sit beside him to talk and reflect. We usually go to movies on road trips the night before and do the same thing.

“Everyone keeps asking me about Coach Brooks’ halftime speech. You know it was a little nasty and very fiery. But he said what needed to be said. This game is all mental and what he said worked.

“On our last series of the game, I just got into the huddle and said, ‘This is it guys, we can make two first downs.’ The offensive line did most of the work though, they were just fantastic. I just ran the ball to get to the line and they provided the lanes and we got both first downs to close out the game.

“It’s a good feeling to know that you helped make history by winning three straight bowl games, something no other team in Kentucky history had accomplished. It is something special that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I came in five years ago to help change this program around and I think we have.

“I think next year the guys are going to go to another bowl game. On offense they really only lose Garry Williams and me. We have a lot of young guys on offense. I think even though the defense loses some veterans overall we’ll be pretty good. The seniors next year will have an unusual opportunity to win four straight bowls if they get there.

“For me the next few months will be spent wrapping up my degree and preparing for the NFL draft. Hopefully somebody will give me a look. If that doesn’t work out, I’d like to investigate coaching or even opening up my own business.

“Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you over the past week, I have enjoyed it.”

Braxton Kelley

Hey Wildcat fans! This is Braxton Kelley from your Liberty Bowl Champion Kentucky Wildcats, checking in for a final blog after UK's successful trip to Memphis.

The game turned out pretty well. We started out a little slow, but in the end we went down there and did what we had to do in Memphis and it really turned out to be a great experience. The whole week was fun and I just enjoyed my last year as a Kentucky Wildcat. Winning three bowl games in a row is really special. Like they said before, this has never happened in UK history, so for my senior class to be the class that changes that and be able to win three bowl games in a row means a lot to us and it means a lot to our program. It shows that our program is on the rise. We can continue to improve and we will be a force to reckon with in the SEC from now on.

I came here after my senior year (of high school) and I expected to do be a part of a program that was going to have great success. Coach Brooks had a vision and I bought into it, and the rest of my teammates bought into it and we were able to turn this program around that was down for so many years. Going to three bowl games means a lot to me, it means a lot to the other players and for us to do that, it's something that obviously hasn't ever happened in UK history. The University of Kentucky is an older school, so for us to be the first ones to do that means a lot. For us to go from where were my freshman year, only winning three games to winning eight games in back-to-back seasons and then winning seven games this year it just really shows that if you put in the work the results will pay off.

The locker room was great after the game. For some of the players it was our last game we would ever play and it was the last game we would every play together as a team, so we were just trying to take in the moment and celebrate the win. We didn't have the best season in UK history but we do have a streak that no one else can compete with so far by winning three bowl games and we cherish that, but it was like night and day compared to coming in the locker room from halftime. After the game everyone was happy but at halftime, nobody was happy at all, but we came through and got the win so after the game everybody was happy.

Watching that last defensive touchdown was really exciting. Myron Pryor knocked the ball loose and then Ventrell Jenkins ended up picking the ball up for the 56-yard touchdown run. It was just amazing for us as a defense to go out and do what we did forcing turnovers, even though some of them didn't go our way. We came out and basically dominated in the second half like we did earlier in the year against Louisville. It showed that we started the season and ended the season the same way.

After that defensive touchdown was called back, we just realized that we needed to go out there and make a stop. We just had to go out there and try and strip the ball out, create turnovers, make plays and just have fun. We dominated most of that half on the defensive side of the ball, so we just had to make the right plays at the right time.

The thing that really sticks out in my mind was just going back into the locker room, knowing it was the last time I was going to be there with those guys. With me being a senior and seeing all the guys I came in with and spent the past four or five years, and knowing I'm probably not going to see a lot of them again, it was one of my most memorable moments. It wasn't the game itself even though I'm glad we won the game, and I'll cherish that game forever, but just knowing that I wasn't going to get to see most of those guys or get to play with those guys again who I've become close friends with over the years, that means a lot to me.

I feel really special to be a part of the building of this program and to be a part of that group of guys. Some of those guys are going to be old and fat when we come back for a reunion in several years! I can't even imagine what some of the guys on my team are going to be like in 20 years, but it will be fun to see, and hopefully we can all come back together and just have fun. We already have a lot of memories together now, like on senior night we all sat down and talked about some of our favorite memories we have had throughout our college career. It just means a lot for us to be able to come back and say we were the first team to win three bowl games in a row.

I am going to stay busy in the near future. First of all, I've got to finish out next semester. I'm going to keep working out and see if I can get a shot at the NFL. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys are doing that and I feel like I have the ability to go out and showcase my talents on the next level, so hopefully the NFL will think so too. But if that doesn't work I want to be a college coach, and hopefully I can be a good one, thanks to the opportunities I have had working with one of the best coaching staffs in college football and a team of hard-working, first-class guys.

Thanks Wildcat fans for turning Memphis into a sea of blue and giving the program so much support over the last few years!

GO CATS!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Today's entry features special guest appearances by Dicky Lyons, Jr. and Shomari Moore, with a video entry discussing today's walkthrough:

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Braxton Kelley

“I thought we had a pretty good practice today. It was my last practice at the university and as a Kentucky Wildcat. It meant a lot to me to have my last practice with the guys, especially seniors like Johnny Williams, a guy that I’ve worked with ever since I have been here. We are the only senior linebackers, so we’re in the same group. As seniors we are looking forward to our last game together.

“At the final practice as seniors we always do the last tackle drill at the end of practice. It means a lot to a lot of guys because they may never play this sport again and go out into the world, get jobs and go different ways in our lives. Some guys will be able to play football beyond college. So it means a lot to each and every one of the seniors to go through that final tackling drill as a tradition here.

“For New Year’s Eve I just plan to go out tonight, chill with some of the guys and bring the New Year in right."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Braxton Kelley

“The team luncheon today was nice. The chicken was pretty good. Our guys received awards for All-SEC and East Carolina received awards from Conference USA. It was just an enjoyable experience today.

“Jeremy (Jarmon) had to make a speech today at the luncheon. I helped him a little bit last night when he was asking me some questions. He asked me how Coach Brooks built this program and I said that coach just brought great players in that really tried to compete, especially guys that may have been overlooked by other schools. He has been able to get those types of guys and mold them to play in the SEC. I think coach has done a wonderful job doing that. If we can continue to do that, UK will be on the rise for a long time.

“I thought Jarmon did really well. I always pick at Jarmon because he talks a lot but he does a good job of speaking in public and representing our team. I went to one his plays last year and he is just a real vocal guy. He’s the type of guy that really knows what he is doing when he has the microphone in his hand. He prides himself on going out and speaking in public. To do a speech like that, I give him a lot of props.

“Last night we had a great time at our welcome party. We got to hear Marcus (McClinton) sing an original song and he has a wonderful voice. Guys were displaying their talents other than football, playing video games and during the bowling and pool competitions. We just went out and tried to have fun and relax a bit. We come out to practice every day to play football but sometimes people don’t realize that we have other talents too.

“I loved Dicky Lyons’ Elvis impersonation performance last night. He’s always trying to act like Elvis and I figured he’d be the one guy to go up there and just blow it away. I never knew he could sing like that! He sounded a lot like Elvis. Dicky told us later that he didn’t pick up the guitar because then he couldn’t do his dance because he knows how to play the song also. He found himself in unfortunate position with his injury this season, but he has made the best of it and really kept all of the guys uplifted and laughing throughout the season.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tony Dixon

“It's actually the first time I have ever been to Memphis and I only live three hours away. The city is unique and is something different. There are a lot of different restaurants and places to go out and have fun. I have been out to Beale Street a couple of nights. It's exciting. They have the street blocked off; I have never really seen that before. They don't allow cars on Beale Street ; it is only for people walking up and down.

“It's exciting to be in my third-straight bowl game. You know, when I came here the school was down in football. One of my goals was to come to UK and really help change the football program around, and be an integral part of changing it around. We are succeeding in our progress.

“I'm looking forward to the rest of the week and experiencing New Year's Eve during the bowl week. This is a completely different experience from anything I've ever done; I'm looking forward to all of the events this week. I just want to enjoy myself on my last bowl trip.

“I don't have a roommate this year on the trip so I have my own space. I don't have any good stories to share yet, but I am sure they'll come along. The bowl game events begin tonight. But I love the Peabody Hotel. I just heard today about the traditional duck processional in the hotel lobby. I am going to have to check that out and report back to you.”

Braxton Kelley

Hey Wildcat fans, this is Braxton Kelley, No. 56 for your Kentucky Wildcats. I will be blogging from Memphis for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, giving fans an inside look at our preparations as we get ready to face Conference USA Champion East Carolina on Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. ET.

We all arrived in town on Saturday night and had a team meeting. We then got to work on Sunday, beginning our first practice down in Memphis, practicing at Rhodes College. The field was a bit sloppy, thanks to some heavy rains on Saturday night, but we all enjoyed getting out there and having a good time, while getting focused on a big game.

We are very excited to be down here and be able to enjoy such a nice town and beautiful hotel. The Peabody is where we are staying and it is quite a hotel in a good location, which gives us lots of things to do. It is a really nice hotel and we are all really enjoying staying here.

I haven’t had any bar-b-q yet, but I am pretty sure Jeremy Jarmon, my roommate (and Memphis area resident) has all the local establishments scoped out. He is going to take us to all the nice places to go and eat.

Tonight we get together with East Carolina for a big Liberty Bowl Welcome Party down on Beale Street, so we are excited to get to hang out together and get to open up the bowl festivities.