By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember former Kentucky offensive lineman Zach West?
He played his final season in 2015 and was a 350-pound guard. He was also one of the nicest players ever to put on the blue and white.
West is from Lexington and was a standout at Lexington Christian Academy. He never wavered in his college choice once he was offered a chance to play at Kentucky by then coach Joker Phillips.
But if you saw West today, you might not recognize him. He’s no longer a 6-4, 350-pound giant. Instead, he’s down to about 250 pounds, runs regularly and is about to enter the Lexington Police Academy.
“My mom was a Lexington police officer and my father was an attorney. I just grew up around law enforcement. I am just following right along with the path they took,’ said West.
Lexington-Fayette Urban County council member Amanda Bledsoe is a huge UK fan. She sat in then Commonwealth Stadium many times cheering for West and his UK teammates. She’s thrilled to have him joining the police force.
“Our officers spend so much time with all they go through. To see a second generation officer say he or she is not only proud of the parent but I also want to do that speaks volumes for the program we run,” Bledsoe said. “Being a police office requires such strength and I mean physically, intellectually, emotionally. You have to know when to engage and when not to.
“It’s about teamwork and knowing your brother has your back and you have his. I think getting Zach is a great fit. The focus it takes to be a collegiate athlete is hard enough. It takes the same thing for the police academy. It’s hard work, probably harder than it has ever been, and he will get that because of what he did at UK.”
She also understands how West could be a role model for youngsters who see a former UK athlete in a police uniform and immediately relate to him.
“We need that. We want a more community-related policing environment. When kids can relate to someone who has played football at UK, it’s really important,” Bledsoe said.
West knew after UK’s 2016 Pro Day his senior year that he was ready to shed weight. He started losing some weight and then once he started running, he lost more. Finally he got to the point he wanted.
“I just wanted the weight off,” West said.
He recently finished a Spartan race which requires stamina and strength. He’s finished the MidSummer Night’s 5K (3.1 miles) and Keeneland Turkey Trot. He is now aiming to run a 10K (6.2 miles).
“I am slowly getting better. I run about four times a week and really don’t worry about the time that much,” he said.
He says his girlfriend — Emma Schulman — is a “way better runner” than him. When they run together, his goal is to try and keep up with her but jokes she accommodates him by letting him stay close.
West also recently shaved his beard and he says that combined with his weight loss makes it hard for UK fans to recognize him even in Lexington.
“Since I shaved for the police orientation, I don’t get recognized much. I will get the occasional look but not many people recognize me know 100 pounds lighter and with no beard,” he laughed and said.
He has friends on the UK football team he talks to often. They include UK lineman Nick Haynes, Kyle Meadows, George Asafo-Adjei, Logan Stenberg and Mason Wolfe. He also talks to former teammate Max Godbey often.
He likes what he’s seen. Kentucky went 7-6 last year and got to the TaxSlayer Bowl and is 4-1 going into Saturday night’s game with Missouri.
“They are doing awesome. That Florida game was really a tough loss, but it’s hard to tell regular fans how hard small details are and how much they matter,” West said. “My senior year I felt we were right there in games so many times. Losing the Louisville game like we did really hurt. We just could not get over that hump, but they are now.”
One of West’s friends at UK was center Jon Toth, a 2016 graduate. They lived together until late August and still get in touch when Toth comes back to Lexington.
“He is still recovering from his back injury,” West said. “He’s just waiting to see what happens with the NFL after he finishes rehab.”
Toth was one of the best offensive linemen in the SEC last year but the injury kept him from landing a NFL roster spot.
“He is one tough guy to do something like that and play in pain like he did last year,” West said. “I lived with him, so I knew what he was battling. I think it escalated in (NFL) training camp and that led to surgery.”
Can't find something?