By LARRY VAUGHT
If you see freshman offensive lineman Kenneth Horsey he’ll look like any other University of Kentucky football player.
Well, at least any other offensive lineman because he is 6-3, 330 pounds.
Whether he plays this year or not remains to be seen because not many true freshmen offensive linemen play in the Southeastern Conference. However, whatever happens, Horsey is just glad to be at Kentucky because it was only a few months ago that he had open heart surgery.
He was having Easter dinner with his family in Florida when he got an “extremely excruciating” pain in his side. About 20 minutes later his mother called 911. Once he got to the hospital, a scan revealed something was blocking his kidney. That was bad enough but the diagnosis got worse.
“They did a full scan of my chest and they realized there was a growth on my heart valve. It was like a crazy thing because they don’t know how long it had been there or how it got there. They felt a piece of that growth flew off and went down to my kidney and started blocking that function,” Horsey said.
He says the diagnosis and surgery were an “eye-opener” for him but his faith in God helped him put the ordeal in a perspective few probably would have.
“I remember the first time I walked (after the surgery) and had to use a walker and was going really slow and I was breathing really heavy because I had just had open heart surgery,” Horsey said. “As I was walking, I was thinking about how good God is. I told myself no matter how hard the workout was, no matter what they made me do, I was always going to be appreciative and always give God the glory for what he brought me through because you never know when your time is up.”
What about his parents, Shari and Ken Horsey? How did they handle having an 18-year-old son having open heart surgery?
“My parents were very strong during this process. I can’t tell you what they did when I wasn’t around. Probably cried. They did a good job staying strong for me even in my weak moments. My parents were my rock in that process,” he said.
He was in the hospital for almost 2 1/2 weeks. His weight dropped from 345 pounds to 315.
“It went back up to about 340 once I was able to start eating again,” he smiled and said. “Since I got here and started training again, I am down to about 325.”
One doctor told his mother initially that he wouldn’t be able to play football.
“But giving all glory to God, they (doctors) said after the surgery that they didn’t see why I couldn’t strap up in August and here I am 100 percent ready to go,” he said. “My recovery went well. I was able to get up and walk pretty much immediately (after the surgery). Nothing fast. I wasn’t no speed demon or anything.
“It was very rare for what happened to me to happen to anybody my age. They said they usually see it in people 40 to 50 years old. It was definitely an interesting process to go through being 18 years old. The doctors said I need to get an EKG (electrocardiogram) about every six months for the first year or two just to make sure that growth does not come back. Besides that, I am ready to put it behind me. I am 100 percent and ready to get out there and get some wins.”
He has a simple, realistic expectation because he knows he’s lucky just to be part of the team.
“My expectation for the season is just to do what I can to help the team win. If that means learning from Bunchy (Stallings) and George (Asafo-Adjei) the first year and then stepping in and doing what I can next year or if that means being in the rotation this year or being a starter … I learned from that process it’s not about me,” Horsey said. “It’s about the team and doing what I can to help the team win, so I am going to do what I can to do that.”
He readily admits the support he got from UK fans after his surgery helped. Same with the way the UK coaches and players responded. He said the coaches told his future offensive line teammates and “they would hit my phone up saying they were praying for me.”
I knew I got worried when I needed a recent stress test. I’m 66 years old and just the thought that something could be wrong scared me. That made wonder Horsey kept from being scared going through the ordeal he did at age 18.
“Prayer. Easy as that. No matter what, we always got to give God glory in the good times and bad times,” Horsey said. “The Lord blessed me. He gave me my family — my mom and dad, my two sisters, my grandma, some aunts that flew down. They were a good support system for me through the good, the bad and the ugly. Even before that they were always there to support me and it was a blessing to have them. That’s what kept me going and kept me strong.”