Mark Stoops honors John Schlarman with inaugural ‘Schlarman Strong’ invitational


Offensive line coach John Schlarman greets fans during the Cat Walk before Saturday’s game versus Murray State on September 15th, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

A cloudy day at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, KY held a special event in honor of a beloved member of the Kentucky football family.

Kentucky once again hosted their annual Kentucky Football Alumni Golf Event Monday afternoon, but switched it up a little this year. Dubbed the ‘Schlarman Strong Invitational’, Mark Stoops and the rest of the Kentucky football program honored their fallen colleague.

“John [Schlarman] personified everything you want. He embodied everything that we’re looking for in a Wildcat,” Kentucky football coach Stoops said at the invitational Monday. “He was … a remarkable man and he did [things] his own unique way.”

All proceeds from the event will go to the Schlarman family to help go toward his children’s college funds.

John Schlarman, the former offensive line coach who died last November from cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer, worked under Stoops from 2013-2020. He was the man who developed the term ‘Big Blue Wall’ for Kentucky’s stellar offensive line.

A petition was started by John Harralson last week to get the wall around the field at Kroger Field dubbed the ‘Big Blue Wall’ in remembrance of Schlarman. The petition has nearly 5,000 signatures in just a few days.

“Thank you,” Stoops said about all the fans wanting to honor the assistant coach this upcoming season. “All the ideas are good. I don’t want to come off as a jerk, thank you, but nobody needs to sign a petition … Everybody realized the profound effect John had on the University of Kentucky and on people.”

“We will find the right way to honor [Schlarman]. Believe me,” Stoops said.

Schlarman, who was also called ‘The Great American’ by his peers, was recently awarded the “Heart of a Wildcat” CATSPY along with three Kentucky athletes — Cullan Brown, Terrence Clarke and Ben Jordan who all died in the last year. 

“He was a true Kentuckian. He was really loved by our entire staff,” Vince Marrow, UK’s tight ends coach said. “I hope everyone will continue to keep his family in your prayers. He deserves that.”

Fans will remember Schlarman’s final game coaching, a 34-7 blowout victory over Tennessee in Knoxville where he was given the game ball and was celebrated by the coaches and players alike for his #SchlarmanStrong attitude that affected so many and has since become a motto inside the Kentucky football program. Many players and coaches alike wear wristbands donning the hashtag to remember their coach by.

“Considering that [the offensive line] is the Big Blue Wall, it’s never going away,” offensive lineman Darian Kinnard said. “We’re going to continue honoring Coach Schlarman, we’re still going to rep that 65 (Schlarman’s number as a Wildcat) and we’re still going to play for him.”

Several football players including former Wildcats and current NFL talents Drake Jackson and Landon Young have gone on record saying they wanted to play for Kentucky during their recruiting process, but more importantly, they wanted to play for Coach Schlarman, which says a lot about his character and impact he had on these young men.

The man literally gave his life for Kentucky, for us and for the program so every bit of [honoring him] is deserved,” Kinnard said.