Finishing a key to accomplishing goals of Jojo Kemp, UK

UK running back Jojo Kemp at SEC Media Days. 

Anthony Crawford

Four years ago, senior running back Jojo Kemp came to UK with a mission. Kemp, a part head coach Mark Stoops’ first recruiting class, has been through all the up-and-downs that has accompanied the Cats under Stoops. Kemp is also one of the few that have been around long enough to be forced to wash the bad taste of a 2-10 season with back-to-back 5-7 seasons.

Now as the SEC Media Days kick off a season that will be vital to Stoops’ tenure and UK in general, and Kemp was able to plainly state that original goal.

“I came here to do one specific thing and that’s to change the culture of Kentucky football,” Kemp said to the local media prior to taking center stage at SEC Media Days. “I knew the things I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”

Other than restating that mission, maturity and finishing also rang through what Kemp spoke about.

No longer the same rebuilding team that can blaming mishaps on youth, the upcoming season presents the same opportunities of years’ past and a new work ethic throughout the program can only help finally reach the team’s goals.

“Just being in the program for three years now, not wanting to be that losing team anymore. A lot more guys are putting in more work now. No one wants to work that hard each and every year,” Kemp said. “We’re staying home on breaks instead of going home to see our families. We’re staying here just to put in that extra work we need to get our position we deserve to be in.”

The extra work can only help to put the team in a position to win, but the Cats have been positions over the last two years and fallen short.

Last year more than years prior, the team was competitive in most of the team’s losses, and it was something that Stoops boasted when talking with the media.

“I think it comes with depth and there’s been just a few of those games where we really outplayed an opponent and lost,” Stoops said. “The rest of the time they’ve been some very even games, some very good competition, could have gone either way. We have to find those inches, those yards and those plays to make the difference.”

Close games like losses to Florida and Auburn could have been the difference in the Cats making the postseason. But there was also games that felt like UK gave it away like with Vanderbilt and Louisville to close the season.

Kemp, especially, let on how frustrating those kinds of losses were and how he hope that with maturity, the team can have a better record in those types of games.

“Our goal this year is just to finish. Finish, overcome adversity in those close games. We want it way more than we ever have, Kemp said. “Myself, I’m a senior now. I want to leave this program a winner. Knowing how much I put into this program and I want it to pay off before I leave here.”

The season has yet to come, but if Kemp is any indication, it seems that the team mindset is in the right places. To overcome a problem, sometimes just acknowledging it can help and being able to finish games was a weakness that was on full display with the Cats time at SEC Media Days.