DeAndre Square providing defensive leadership during fall camp


DeAndre Square UK Football Training Camp 2021 Photo by Jacob Noger | UK Football

Barkley Truax

Setting an example for those around you is written on chapter one, page one of the Leadership 101 handbook and it seems as though senior linebacker DeAndre Square has been studying this summer.

“This is a fourth year player who’s started two years here,” inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall said. “He’s practicing as hard as anybody on the field.”

Square spent the 2020 season with the proverbial captain’s patch on his chest, where he started 10 of the 11 games. He also has 36 career games played under his belt, only missing one due to injury in 2019.

“You set an example for all the freshman, even all the guys that have already been through the program,” Square said. “You never get too old to stop proving yourself and can never get comfortable.” Square said that Kentucky has guys that are trying to prove themselves and compete for a spot in every position on defense, so he has to go hard every chance he gets.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been the starter for three years, or if you’re up and coming,” he said. “You still have to prove yourself day in and day out.” 

His ability to set an example has been paying off in the eyes of his teammates and coaches alike. Sumrall said he’s been impressed with Square’s fall camp.

“On Tuesday’s practice, he was popping pads like he was a true freshman trying to impress somebody,” Sumrall said. “He ain’t scared, he ain’t backing down.” Sumrall said he’s hitting some people so hard, their head snaps back. 

What’s really benefiting the defense, in Square’s eyes, is he knows that he’s being a role model for the younger guys in the rotation. His teammates are taking notice on and off the field and it’s quickly becoming one of his biggest strengths.

“It’s becoming my leadership,” Square said about his best football quality. “I could probably say my coverage skills, but I’ve been working pretty hard on my leadership skills and just trying to mold different guys.”

He said that behind the scenes, he’s touched and helped a lot of guys that simply hasn’t gotten noticed. Current Washington Football Team linebacker and 2021 NFL first round pick Jamin Davis is someone who wasn’t known by the fan base as a whole this time last year, but Square helped him out last season.

“I didn’t necessarily take him under my wing, but I helped him out a lot,” Square said. “He helped me; we helped each other.”

It’s not often that you see an NFL-hopeful work on something other than their body, but Square feels like he’s re-wired himself into a completely different player ahead of the 2021 season.

“I’ve changed my mindset,” Square said about his bigger, stronger physique. “I’ve been putting in the same hard work that I have been (for) the past three years, it’s just a different mindset of ‘tomorrow will be better than today’.” 

With this new mindset, he feels he has become the centerpiece of this Kentucky defense, and his fellow inside linebackers and defensive linemen have his back. 

“With the D-Line, we work together,” Square said. “… we’ve got a good thing going.” Square described the trust he has for his teammates in the sense that if he doesn’t make the play himself, he knows someone else on his team will. 

“They help me out a lot, so I’ll probably be buying them lunch a lot,” Square said about the defensive line. 

In his eyes, he believes everyone just wants to get better. “There’s nobody that’s tired of camp already,” he said. “Everybody’s still energized and focused, attacking the main goal right now.”

“We have good chemistry as a defense and everyone wants to do their job.”

Typically at Kentucky, the fan base prides themselves on their defense, where the past few seasons the secondaries have been near-elite and have sent several stars to the NFL since 2018, including Super Bowl Champion Mike Edwards, Lonnie Johnson, Brandin Echols and Kelvin Joseph; not to mention non-secondary Lexington legends on defense such as Pro-Bowler’s Josh Allen, Za’Darius Smith, and Bud Dupree.

With the offense getting a makeover with new offensive coordinator Liam Coen coming in from the Los Angeles Rams, that’s not the case this year.

“We like that the attention is on the offense,” Square said. “We can keep doing what we’ve been doing and improve without worrying about what everyone on the outside is saying.” He laughed and said he feels sorry for the pressure fans and media are putting on Liam Coen’s offense this season.