Blue brawns and gold

By Bobby Reagan

Throughout the year, the UK football team dominated the headlines for its season filled with dramatic wins and capped with its second consecutive Music City Bowl win. Last night, when all 491 students comprising every UK athletic team came together for the CATSPY Awards at Memorial Coliseum, it was the football team that once again stole the show.

The gridiron Cats proved to be the big winners of the evening, taking eight awards, including Team of the Year. Senior quarterback Andre Woodson was named the K-Association Male Athlete of the Year and head coach Rich Brooks won Coach of the Year.

Senior running back Rafael Little kept the Blue Heart award, reserved for the player who overcame injuries to have the most successful season, inside the football family. Wide receiver Keenan Burton won the award last year.

“It’s been hard dealing with all the injuries,” Little said. “But, I’ll never forget my time here and my teammates always poking fun at me to get me through it all.”

Senior tight end Jacob Tamme and senior linebacker Wesley Woodyard were both named Mr. Wildcat, an award given for all-around excellence in athletics, academics, character and service. It was the first time in the CATSPY’s six-year history there have been co-Mr. Wildcats.

“I love this university so much that I bleed blue and white,” said Tamme, who also won Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. “This award means a lot to me and there is no one better to share with this than Wesley.”

The sixth annual CATSPY’S, a spin-off of the popular ESPY Awards hosted by ESPN, honored individual athletes, teams and sports achievements, both on and off the playing field at UK.

Senior gymnast Crissy Cannon, who spent three months last year building houses in Africa and who spends time helping refugees in America, joined Tamme and Woodyard as Miss Wildcat.

“This award means so much to me that I can’t even put it into words,” Cannon said. “The service I was able to do at UK was amazing, because besides gymnastics it’s one of the most important things to me.”

The K-Association Female Athlete of the Year went to sophomore Jennifer Pason of the rifle team, and the tennis squad won Female Team of the Year after a 15-9 (6-7 Southeastern Conference) season.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the Courage Award was not given out this year because there was no one deserving of it at the time of voting. However, it was announced that the Courage Award will now be known as the Mike Lyden Courage Award, named after UK’s diving coach since 1993 who died at the age of 51 earlier this month after a two-year bout with cancer.

The first annual Bill Keightley “Assist” Award, given to a non-athlete who exemplifies hard work, was given to basketball managers Zach Murphy and Will Herschelman.

“Mr. Wildcat was the greatest mentor I ever had,” Herschelman said. “He was a big part of our lives and I am thankful to be a part of his life and extremely honored to win this award.”

Associate Athletics Director John Cropp, who has been with UK for the last 17 years, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. He said working with the student-athletes has made his life easy.

“I’m lucky because I’ve never had to go to work my whole life,” Cropp said. “People like you athletes allow me to call this a job.”

The award ceremony was hosted by Christi Thomas of WKYT and Jay Crawford of ESPN, who said he was impressed with what he saw.

“I’ve been to a ton of college athletic banquet awards,” Crawford said. “But let me tell you, nothing compares to this.”