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Dane Key, Barion Brown and the brotherhood of Kentucky football

Abbey Cutrer
Kentucky wide receivers Dane Key and Barion Brown dance to music at the Cat Walk before the Kentucky vs. Ball State football game on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Kentucky football wide receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key are their own movie.

Last year, that movie broke box office records — Key with the most touchdown receptions by a freshman in program history and Brown with three SEC Player of Week awards in one season.

It’s not very common when a sequel tops the original, but Brown and Key are ready to film something even better: The “Terminator 2” of Kentucky football.

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Barion Brown (7) during Media Day on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff (Abbey Cutrer)

The duo came to Lexington last fall for each of their rookie seasons and found not only a plethora of success on the field but also a lifelong friendship.

Instead of letting competition create a rift between the receivers, the two grew closer through their accomplishments and wholehearted support for each other.

“Man, I love Dane. That’s my little brother,” Brown said. “Us coming in as freshman and basically having the same goals — me wanting him to reach his goal, him wanting me to reach my goals — just made us way closer.”

While Brown may think that he’s the big brother, Key has a different opinion.

“If I see him doing something, I smack him in the back of the head and make sure he’s ready to go,” Key said.

Brown and Key are always looking for how to help the other improve. Competition simply isn’t the mindset this receiver room has, and Key believes that is what makes their team different.

“I really feel like that can separate a lot of teams,” Key said. “You know, just a lot of guys out there who just want to be for them, but we know in our receiver room that we want to be for the team, and we want to go out there and be together.”

Although it’s rare to find a moment when Key isn’t cracking jokes or laughing with Brown, he acknowledges just how blessed he is to have genuine support from someone who could easily be his competitor. 

“Barion is one of my closest friends,” Key said. “Having him in my corner and just knowing that he’s going to help me grow and help me be a better player on the field and a better person off the field is something really cool to have.”

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Dane Key (6) walks through the Cat Walk before the Kentucky vs. No. 1 Georgia football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff (Isabel McSwain)

Last season, the two of them together totaled 1,147 yards with 87 catches and 10 touchdowns for the Wildcats. 

Going into this season with several new faces, having those two guys to be the backbone for the new offense is game-changing.

Will Levis has moved on to the pros, and filling his shoes is senior NC State transfer Devin Leary. Fans should know that Key has approved of the new star.

“With Leary, I just see a playmaker at quarterback just because of the fact that I’ve seen him make throws and plays that I couldn’t see a lot of other college quarterbacks making,” Key said. “(I’m) really excited to work with Leary and watch him make plays and watch us make plays together.”

On top of that, it must be nice for Leary to know that his wide receivers have no issue giving him some extra relaxing time on the sidelines, for Brown showed last year that he’s capable of running the offense himself.

In the rookie’s first ever collegiate game against Miami (Ohio), he made history by becoming the first Kentucky freshman since Kio Stanford in 1994 to return a kickoff for a touchdown. 

As much as Brown loved that rookie year, he knows he’s still capable of more.

“With my pops, we’ll just watch game film and not so much look at things I did good, but more of what could you do better,” Brown said. “We love the accomplishments, but we know we got way more stuff to work on. So, just seeing what I can do better.”

Also at the forefront of helping Brown work on more of that stuff is new offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who was initially at Kentucky when recruiting the sophomores out of high school before taking a year off from the Wildcats to coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

Now he’s back like he never left and, according to Brown, is the definition of “swaggy.”

“I like his swagger,” Brown said. “He can talk his talk for sure. That’s something I do, so that’s why we get along so well because when we feel it’s ‘swaggy,’ we are going to bring it out. If he brings it out, I get turnt. If I bring it out, he gets turnt.”

Coen knows how to get on the level of his receivers, and with the energy and excitement Brown and Key bring to the field with their bond, Lexington is sure to see some explosive plays.

Perhaps the most important part of these plays that Brown and Key would like Big Blue Nation to know is that they will all come with some touchdown dancing to celebrate properly.

“Every touchdown, I’m dancing in the end zone,” Brown said. “Me and my little brother.”

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About the Contributors
Samantha Money, Assistant Sports Editor
Abbey Cutrer, Managing/Photo Editor

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