By LARRY VAUGHT
If you are a Kentucky football fan, you have to be wondering whether Gunnar Hoak or Terry Wilson will emerge as the starting quarterback this season.
As intriguing as that is for fans, think what it must be like if you are the mother of one of those quarterbacks?
“I am not nervous. I am more anxious and excited to get the season underway so Gunnar can get out there and do his thing and I can see him on the field,” said Holly Hoak, Gunnar’s mother, when I asked how stressful the quarterback competition was for her. “I can’t wait to see him our there. To see him play in an actual game will be a thrill.”
Her youngest son, Griffin, is a freshman linebacker at Youngstown State. Her husband, Frank, played at Ohio State. Her daughter, Kelsey, is a news producer for WSAV-TV in Charleston, W.Va. They have a family group text message but do not get into practice details with Gunnar or Griffin.
“If Gunner needs to talk, he will call Frank. I just try to give words of encouragement if they are needed,” Holly Hoak said. “It’s actually a really good thing to have another son playing (college football). It’s a blessing even if we have to split time (about who to see play). It’s a coin toss as to who goes where and then my daughter and her husband help out. We try to have at least one of us at each place.”
Frank was at UK’s Fan Day Saturday. Holly went to Fan Day at Youngstown State.
Neither parent was at UK’s Media Day on Friday when Gunnar revealed he had no plans to cut his hair any time soon. Normally at this time of year, he gets a buzz cut because it’s cooler (temperature wise).
“He has in his mind he’s going to just let it grow,” Holly Hoak laughed and said. “It’s his hair but I was shocked because that’s not typically what he does. He said he just wanted to do something different and I said, ‘Do what you want.’”
Gunnar, an agricultural economics major, spent part of the summer doing something he wanted — a 150-hour internship with Central Bank. He worked full-time three days a week and had to do his weightlifting before work.
“He had a full schedule but we did see him some a couple of weekends when he got to come home for a little bit,” Holly said.
The Hoaks are not parents who want to “hover” and be at practice to look like they are second-guessing what coach Mark Stoops and his staff do. Stoops told them from the beginning they could come watch practice, call, ask questions or anything else they wanted.
“Gunnar has got to do his thing. Frank’s playing days are over. Gunnar doesn’t need us there. Us being there would be supportive and Gunnar would appreciate it, but he needs to be focused on what he is doing, not his parents,” Holly said.
Stoops was honest with Gunnar and his parents about plans for this year. With Stephen Johnson graduating, Georgia prep quarterback Jarren Williams decommitting and then signing with Miami and Drew Barker giving up football, Kentucky needed another quarterback. Stoops told the Hoaks that UK likely would recruit a junior college quarterback — and did with Wilson.
“We knew what they were doing,” Holly said.
Many UK fans have the belief that Stoops went the junior college route to get a quarterback who would start this year even if Hoak had graduated early, redshirted in 2016 and then waited his turn in 2017. He’s been through three spring practices learning the system — Wilson has had one.
Yet the perception many have, based on social media interactions, is that Wilson’s dual-threat ability makes him the likely starter.
“Out of Frank, Gunnar and I, I am the one on social media the most,” Holly said. “I like to read a lot to get a feel for what is out there. My first instinct is always to protect my kid. We don’t tell Gunnar what is out there (on social media). He is aware of some of it but his job is to do what the coaches want and improve on the field.
“I don’t mind everybody having opinions. I watch more for character things. As a parent and mom, it cuts deep if you make a character stab at my kid and you are just a fan and do not know the kid. The football opinions are what they are. I just get frustrated if you attack any kid’s character.
“We’re just ready for the season to be here and get the games going. Gunnar has worked so hard and he’s excited just like the whole team is. We’re all hoping it’s going to be a really special year.”