Couch was almost a Vol

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Soon, former University of Kentucky legend Tim Couch will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. However, the former Leslie County star really wanted to play for Tennessee, not Kentucky.

“I committed to Tennessee in high school and backed out of the verbal commitment. I went to UK because of my dad. He wanted me to go there. At the time I did not understand why,” Couch said. “It wasn’t a great fit for me. Me and dad, there was some tension and arguments.”

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer came to Hyden for a home visit and Couch’s father walked out of the meeting.

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“It was one of the most awkward situations ever. We were sitting in the living room. I told coach Fulmer I was ready to come and commit. He said, ‘Great,’ and dad leaves the room and takes off. They were stunned and told me they had never had a parent leave like that before.

“My dad was one of a kind. He had a unique personality. He was stubborn and hard headed. He believed I should be at Kentucky and fortunately it all worked out.”

They reached an agreement where Tim would go to Kentucky but if year one did not go well under coach Bill Curry he could transfer to Tennessee.

“I called Dad halfway through the year and told him I was going to Tennessee. My brother called Tennessee and said I was transferring. They told me I could come, redshirt and then take over as the starter,” Couch said.

Kentucky went 4-7 in 1996, Couch’s freshman season and Curry’s last season. Athletics director CM Newton knew Couch was going to transfer and he asked Couch to give him time to find a coach that could better utilize his passing talents.

“I waited and he called me and said, ‘I got a guy, Hal Mumme.’ I wonder who is Hal Mumme. I had never heard of him or Valdosta State (where Mumme was coaching). But the first time I met him I knew it would work. He described his system and it looked like what I ran in high school. I told C.M. I was staying.

“I had so much confidence in coach Mumme. He made you believe in him. I knew we had the talent on the team to run that shotgun, spread offense. We just had not been able to go out and be the type of players we were.”

Couch said he was lucky not only to play for Mumme but assistant coach Mike Leach, Tony Franklin, Chris Hatcher and Sonny Dykes.

“Those guys were all great to me and they all went out and did great things,” Couch said. “That system is still thriving thanks to them and others using it now.”

Couch noted that successful NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield are in systems with Air Raid tendencies.

“Coach Mumme and those guys at Kentucky were ahead of the times and that really benefited me,” Couch said. “It was a loose atmosphere but he (Mumme) would absolutely get on people. He had a great sense for when to push guys and when to back off. There were very few people then who believed in the Air Raid but we knew we could go into a game and light up people because we had one of the best offenses in the country.”


2025 Ky. girls class is loaded


New Kentucky women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks knows that three of the nation’s top juniors — Sacred Heart’s ZaKiyah Johnson (No. 5), Bethlehem’s Leah Macy (No. 8) and George Rogers Clark’s Ciara Byars (No. 37) — are in the Bluegrass.

There’s also rising star Grace Mbugua, a 6-5 center at Danville Christian Academy who has received 15 offers, including Kentucky, since her play at the state tournament.

At his introductory press conference, I asked Brooks what his philosophy would be about in-state recruiting as he tries to restock the Kentucky roster.

“When you think about Kentucky, you think about basketball,” the former Virginia Tech coach said. “We definitely understand the importance of keeping in-state players at home.

“We also understand the importance of fit. We will look at all of it and make sure it’s going to be a great fit. Because sometimes situations, some kids just want to get away. We’ve encountered that in the state of Virginia where we have recruited and we want to make sure everything’s going to be a good fit.

“We know it is a rich country with basketball. And we definitely are aware of the young ladies (in Kentucky). We’ve actually been recruiting some of the young ladies to the point that we had conversations. We understand the importance of it and that’s going to be a priority for us but it will also be very important that we make sure everything is a good fit for our program.”

Brooks quickly found four familiar good fits for his first UK team when all-ACC guard Georgia Amoore and 6-5 center Clara Strack both transferred from Virginia Tech to UK and junior college standout Amelia Hassett and high school senior Lexi Blue flipped their commitments from Tech to UK.