By now you all have seen South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst’s failed hurdle attempt over Chris Westry. People across the nation have chimed in on Hurst’s lack of athletic prowess and poor decision making skills. What most don’t know, however, is that Hurst’s hurdle was not the product of a ridiculous attempt to avoid a tackle. Rather, it was part of a coordinated plot to put a little spark in the South Carolina and UK football teams and fan bases. The following oral history tells the story of how two college players and their coaches attempted to recreate one of film’s most iconic scenes. The following transcript is
completely made up lightly edited.
Mark Stoops (University of Kentucky Football Coach): The whole thing started with Will Muschamp. I think he recognized that both of our teams needed a pick-me-up and I think he was right.
Will Muschamp (University of South Carolina Football Coach): After our lackluster start against Vandy and Mississippi St I did what I always do when I needed some inspiration. I popped in my Dirty Dancing VHS and got lost in the magic.
Chris Westry (University of Kentucky Cornerback): Coach Stoops called me in his office during game prep for New Mexico St. He handed me a blu ray of Dirty Dancing and told me to study the scenes where Johnny and Baby practice the lift.
Hayden Hurst (South Carolina Tight End): Coach and I watched the scene with the left, you know, the one at the end of the movie. I never knew I could want something so bad, but the minute I saw Baby go up I knew what I wanted to do.
Westry: I called Hayden and we were both excited about it. I started practicing here in Lexington with Charles Walker because he loves Dirty Dancing.
Charles Walker (University of Kentucky Wide Receiver): I’ve always seen myself as a modern day Johnny Castle.
Hurst: I practiced with Coach Muschamp. He wore a leather jacket and insisted I call him Johnny. At one point he busted a window out of his car with a wooden post.
Westry: Neither one of us knew how hard this move was actually going to be.
***To get an idea of the difficulty of the move, Funkhouser reached out to the originators of the iconic moment.
Jennifer Grey (played Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing): Patrick (Swayze) and I worked on that move a lot. There were a lot of rumors about our strained relationship on set, that move was why.
Patrick Swayze (played Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, comments received via psychic medium Oda Mae Brown): It’s a very tough move. You have to be in great physical shape and have a lot of focus. Fortunately, I was more than able to do it.
Grey: I didn’t know the players were going to try it until I saw the attempt.
Swayze: Being in heaven has a lot of advantages, like finding out about things like this. When I heard about it I was really rooting for them. By the way, I do watch football up here. When I showed up they built a sweet replica of the bar from Road House where I watch all the games.
Stoops: I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris more nervous about something.
Westry: The week leading up to the game was nerve wracking. Whenever I would get stressed I would do a lot of meditating. I listened to “She’s Like the Wind” probably 100 times that week.
Hurst: Coach Muschamp was so excited. He cancelled practice on Thursday and then Thursday night we had a dance party at a random shack Coach owns.
Muschamp: What can I say? I can mash potatoes.
Westry: Hayden and I met up right before the game. I could tell right away that things may not go as planned.
Hurst: When I got on the field and saw all the fans I started to get a little nervous, but I felt good about the lift.
Swayze: I saw Westry from my seat at the Double Deuce as he was warming up. He had hungry eyes, I knew he was ready.
Westry: On the play before the lift I told Hayden to not hesitate. Just run and jump.
Hurst: I hesitated.
Westry: I tried to ease his fall a little bit.
Muschamp: I ran out to the parking lot and and smashed a car window with a wooden post.
Swayze: It reminded a lot of Jennifer’s early attempts at the lift.
Grey: Of course Patrick said that.
Stoops: You know, even though the lift didn’t go so well, I was pleased with the effort. Chris was in great position and made a great play.
Muschamp: After the game I was so made I made Hayden sit in the corner of the locker room.
Hayden: I deserved to be put in the corner. I blew it.
Westry: My twitter feed has been blowing up about it. I wish we could’ve executed better, but overall I feel good about my effort. I’m just glad we were able to give the fans something they could enjoy.
In a year with a lot of forgettable football, the lift-that-almost-was has provided a moment for fans to remember. Hopefully more moments like this are on the football horizon.
Be sure to come back next week for the next edition of Funkhouser Oral History: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!”