BBN: REMEMBERING JARED LORENZEN

01-Aug-2019

 

Ask anyone who knew Jared Lorenzen for a favorite memory about him, and they’ll have one. Ask anyone who just saw him play the same thing, they will have one, too. at’s the kind of impact the former Kentucky quarterback had.

He was a record-setting quarterback who had the build of an offensive lineman. He was a unique personality who could relate to coaches, teammates, media members and fans in a way few athletes can.

His death July 3 at age 38 set off an outpouring of love and admiration seldom seen anywhere for an athlete. Within a week of his death, Throwboy Tees and Kentucky Sports Radio in separate fund-raising efforts raised over $100,000 for his family. JD Motorsports had a Lorenzen decal on the hood of the No. 4 Chevrolet driven by Gary Keller at the NASCAR XFinity Series 300 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. Belmont-winning owner and Kentucky native Tracy Farmer, a UK football season ticket holder, named a 2-year-old colt "Lorenzen." Country music singer J.D. Shelburne wore a Lorenzen game jersey at a concert. 

"People who saw him play will never forget him. People who will see him only on YouTube or SEC Network reruns will know they missed witnessing someone extraordinary," Gabriel said.

"He loved Kentucky, Highlands High School, his teammates and his family. For me, when he played at UK he never received enough credit. The NFL makes mistakes. Not drafting him was past ridiculous. I will always believe that if he got with the right team, he could have been a big-time NFL player for a long time," former WLEX-TV sports anchor Alan Cutler said.

"Jared had a spirit to him that matched his physical stature. He was one of those outgoing guys who always seemed to be in a good mood, even when things weren't going too well," Cats Illustrated managing editor Jeff Drummond said. "I can't recall a time when he wasn't completely engaged with interviews, giving us thoughtful and humorous responses. He always spoke from the heart. That can be rare in today's relationship between athletes and the media."

Lorenzen was a four-year starter from 2000 to 2003 at Kentucky and threw for 10,354 yards, including 528 in a game against Georgia when he was a freshman, and 78 touchdowns. Some of his most memorable plays, though, might have been his runs — he did rush for 12 touchdowns — because at 270 pounds or more he was an imposing force. Lorenzen was inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. He also won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2008 as Eli Manning's backup. Manning was one of many former teammates who attended Lorenzen's funeral.

Tom Leach, UK's radio play-by-play voice, remembers how creative Lorenzen could be and Leach pointed to a "behind-the-head" throw as a Georgia defensive lineman was tackling him.

"But there were so many of those times he scrambled around and found a way to make something good happen," Leach said. "I always thought the way Jared best served as a leader for his team was giving his teammates more confidence when he walked in the huddle. It's a quality great quarterbacks have and Jared was a much better quarterback than his record would suggest because he played at a time when probation and coaching changes made his teams play with one hand tied behind their backs."

Larry Glover of WVLK Radio says you could never take your eyes off him because you never knew what he might do next. "He would likely try anything and chances are it might work," Glover said.

He liked the same behind the head throw against Georgia that Leach did.

"It showed the creativity, competitiveness and difficulty of defending Jared all in one play," Glover said.

Dick Gabriel was on the field for most of Lorenzen's game with his roles with WKYT- TV and the UK Radio Network.

"People who saw him play will never forget him ... a guy his size just shouldn't have been able to do the things on a football field that he did and yet, there he was every Saturday, seemingly defying the laws of football physics. People who will see him only on YouTube or SEC Network reruns will know they missed witnessing someone extraordinary," Gabriel said.

One of Gabriel's unique memories came in an interview with Lorenzen in 2002 after UK started 4-0. Lorenzen admitted the most significant difference in his play from 2001 when UK won just two games was he knew the plays. He admitted he didn't "know the plays" the year before when he still threw for nearly 2,200 yards and 19 scores.

Drummond was a regular at practice in an era when media members could watch the team daily. Lorenzen often showed his "most astonishing abilities" during those workouts.

"He would regularly put on a show. I remember some of the receivers begging him to ease up on how hard he was throwing. Their poor hands took a beating, I'm sure," Drummond said. "That arm strength was legendary. He used to win bets by kneeling at the 50-yard line and throwing the ball through the uprights in one end zone. I've never seen anything like it before or since. As someone with smaller hands who never could throw a football very well, I marveled at that ability. It would take me three good throws -- on my feet -- to get it 60-plus yards."

Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story still remembers a 65-yard throw Lorenzen made in the 1998 Class AAA state title game against Waggener. "The ball had no air under it at all. It was an absolute missile. Before or after, I do not think I've seen a pass quite like that," Story said.

Cutler worked for the Cincinnati Bengals Radio Network for about 15 years and also covered the Bengals for WLEX when he was allowed to walk the sidelines.

"In all that time the only player that I thought had a stronger arm than Jared was Brett Favre (a 20-year NFL veteran who is in the Hall of Fame). Jared could throw it 60 yards plus yards and hit a man in stride," Cutler said. "It was a tight spiral that came at you like a pitcher throwing close to 100 miles an hour. There are very very few human beings that could do this."

Keith Taylor, former sports editor of the Winchester Sun who now works for Kentucky Today shared a memory. Lorenzen threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in his first UK start against Louisville.

"He never wavered despite playing for three different coaches and handled each transition with ease because of his willingness to be a team player," Taylor said. 

Leach remembers the video on social media of Lorenzen both celebrating and crying after UK's win at Florida last season to end a 31-game losing skid to the Gators.

"Through doing the games in football and basketball with former players on radio, I know how much their time as a Wildcat meant to them and you saw that come through with Jared at that moment," Leach said.

Cutler was impressed with the way Lorenzen accepted being a role player on the Highlands basketball team because his friend — and future UK teammate Derek Smith — was the team's star. Highlands played in the Sweet 16 three times.

"Jared ran the court as hard as anyone I've ever seen in the Sweet 16. He rebounded, set screens and decided that if he isn't the star, he was going to do anything to help his team won. My respect for him that day was off the charts," Cutler said.

Mike Welker was Lorenzen's business partner in Throwboy Tees. He was also close friends with the former UK quarterback after meeting him in 2015.

"I would lean on him not only for business but also for life," Welker said. "He supported my passion for being the soccer coach at Moeller (High School in Cincinnati). The day I was hired, he tweeted how he proud he was of me."

Welker gave an emotional talk to his soccer team after attending Lorenzen's funeral and presented each player with a blue T-shirt that had the No. 22 with Highlands on the front and Lorenzen on the back.

"I wanted them to know what a freak athlete he was. It was so cool for me to help let them understand just how special Jared was. I am not a massive Kentucky fan but I was a fan when Jared played and have always been a Jared fan," Welker said.

Lorenzen has a lot of fans who loved him — probably more than he ever understood because he never considered himself a celebrity.

"I think Jared will go down as one of the top five to 10 fan favorites in UK sports history, which is fairly remarkable considering he was a football player and the dozens of basketball legends this school has produced," Drummond said. "Jared had an 'everyman' quality to him that I think a lot of fans, especially those of us who have battled weight issues, could easily relate. We may never see anything like him again. He was a unique athlete."

Story agrees.

"I think people will remember how unique it was that he could do the job at 300 pounds (give or take). He was genuinely a unique sports figure," Story said. "Because many of us share, to some degree or other, the battle he faced controlling his weight, a lot of people found him an easy person with whom to relate."

Leach thinks Lorenzen connected even better with fans after his playing career ended.

"Jared seemed to relish the interaction with fans as much as any former player I've seen at UK and the fans fed off that connection," Leach said.

"His smile and his presence in a room made you smile. He was always friendly and understood the role of the media and what it took for us to do our job. He was always cooperative and very understanding. He was larger than life, yet a humble, gentle giant," Taylor said.

Lorenzen was always available to all media members to talk UK football or anything else, including his weight issues.

"He could have carried himself as the superstar quarterback but that just wasn't him," Gabriel said. "It saddened me to see him battle his weight as he grew older. All I could think of were his kids."

Gabriel was thrilled when he learned about the documentary that was going to chronicle Lorenzen's weight loss as he fought to become healthier.

"He appeared to be on his way but just ran out of time," Gabriel said.

Cutler did a story for LEX18 when Lorenzen had lost over 100 pounds and was sharing his story on Facebook.

"He told me he wanted to live long enough to see his daughter get married. I can't get that thought out of my head," Cutler said. "The other part of Jared that I will remember the most is the short conversations we had after interviews when he opened up and trusted me to keep my mouth shut. During those times, you could tell that he was smarter than most realized and that he cared deeply. What's sad to me is I don't think he knew how many cared about Jared, the person.

"I hope his talent, heart and will to win will be remembered most by UK fans, and perhaps I shouldn't say this, but I don't think he was appreciated enough as a player."

Glover feels the same way.

"His legacy will probably be his uniqueness. That's certainly memorable but sadly the legacy should be that he was one of the most accomplished players in UK history," Glover said. "His numbers stack up against the best players. Not just at Kentucky, but in the SEC."