Continued interviews featuring Kentucky high school football stars who signed with the Wildcats. This post features three more Kentucky greats: QB Pookie Jones, FB Andy Murray and DE Dennis Johnson
Pookie Jones, QB, Calloway County -
Little known fact about yet another Kentucky Mr. Football, Jones was coached in high school by former UK, and current Cal offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin. Another note, Pookie may be the nicest human to ever walk the earth. As an all-state football and baseball player, the two-time UK team captain chose the Cats over Dr. Tom Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. After terrorizing SEC defensive coordinators he was drafted by the MLB’s Colorado Rockies. Pookie’s enjoyed business success in Lexington and remains heavily involved in youth baseball instruction.
Other than UK, what other schools did you consider?
Jones: Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisville, and Penn State
Tell us about your official visit to UK.
Jones: Al Baker showed me around. I think he was disappointed because I wanted to head back to the hotel early. I was a kid from the country and wasn’t used to the bright lights of Lexington.
How would you describe the current state of the UK Football program?
Jones: I think we’re heading in the right direction but it takes time. The SEC is the most competitive conference for a reason and it usually takes coaches longer to achieve their goals due to the conference grind.
What was your deciding factor in choosing UK?
Jones: My dad. He was big on me getting my degree and C.A.T.S (Center for Academics and Tutorial Services) just opened on campus. That made my choice much easier.
Dennis Johnson, DE, Harrodsburg -
College coaches and accolades poured into Harrodsburg as Johnson was named as Kentucky’s Mr. Football, USA Today National Player of the Year and Sports Illustrated National Player of the Year. Dennis is in the same category as Tim Couch and considered as one of Kentucky’s all-time greatest athletes.
An unknown fact about Dennis Johnson is that he played in his first high school varsity game as a six-year-old second grader. At UK, Johnson continued to dominate and was an All-SEC performer who was later drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. Today, Dennis Johnson is the Woodford County Head Football Coach, a traditional path for a member of the First Family of Kentucky Football.
What other schools did you visit before committing to UK?
Johnson: Notre Dame, Florida, Colorado, and Miami
What is your take on the state of the UK Football program?
Johnson: I think our program is improving. I love Coach Stoops and his staff. Regardless of what anyone says, you have to have players to win. We are bridging the gap with other SEC schools but it takes time to build a football program to be a contender in the SEC.
Every player has their own pre-game ritual or superstition, what was yours?
Johnson: The few rituals I had were wearing the same shirt every game. I wore it in high school, college and in the pros under my shoulder pads. I had written my favorite scripture on it in marker (Philippians 4:13). I also liked new cleats every time I could get them because it made me look and feel good.
Why did you sign with UK?
Johnson: I signed with UK because Hal Mumme and his staff had brought a lot of excitement to the program, plus I had 4 guys from my hometown who were playing for UK.
What is your best UK moment?
Johnson: Beating LSU my freshman year at their place.
Andy Murray, FB, Louisville Trinity -
The legend of the Terminator (FB John Conner) was preceded by Andy Murray. While leading the SEC in knock-down blocks as a fullback, Murray was also a key member of the last UK team to beat Florida and Tennessee. Murray had the honor to block for five future NFL running backs, he did so with fury. Andy, a Trinity High School Hall of Famer, played on one of the most talented high school football teams in state history and sported offers from virtually the entire Big 10. Murray was taken by the Houston Oilers in the 1990 NFL Draft. He now owns and operates an apparel and promotional business, Murray Promotions, located in northern Kentucky.
What was that one special moment you realized that signing with Kentucky was the right decision?
Murray: The day I signed my letter of intent and saw the emotions on my father’s face. He was a WWII veteran and never showed his hand. He showed his hand on that day.
Why did you choose UK?
Murray: UK just came off a 9-3 record, Coach Claiborne had the program on the rise. I didn’t want to go to the Big 10 or Louisville, UK was close to home and in the SEC. My mom and dad could watch all my games and actually never missed one in my four year career.
What is your fondest on the field memory?
Murray: Carrying Coach Claiborne off the field after we beat Georgia. Coach Claiborne had never beaten Vince Dooley, that win was the high water mark of his Hall of Fame career.
Describe how being a UK alumnus has impacted your life after football.
Murray: It reaches a lot of people, fans or not. Folks say, “Wow” what was it like playing in the SEC or at UK?” Can’t put a price tag on how valuable that conversation piece is in business meetings. Everybody in Kentucky is a sports fan, every day UK football is a conversation I have in meetings. Nobody can ever take away the fact I played for UK, was selected as a team captain, or drafted by the Oilers.
There you have it, Segment Three coming soon with Tim Couch and Chris Chenault.