(LEX 18) — A photo of a coal miner covered in soot with his son at the University of Kentucky Blue-White Game went viral Monday, eventually earning the pair a shout-out from Coach John Calipari.
Like so many kids across Kentucky, Micheal Joe McGuire and his dad had a Big Blue Tradition.
"I was a little boy, growing up watching with my dad," he said. "Never did miss a game, watching on TV,"
Micheal lives in Pikeville with his wife, Mollie McGuire, and their two kids. When UK announced they would hold this year's Blue-White game in Eastern Kentucky, Mollie saw an opportunity to surprise her family.
"They had posted the presale link and I hopped on and grabbed some tickets because I knew it was important to him and his dad. I thought it would be a great experience for him to share with our son," she said.
Micheal works as a roof bolter in a coal mine.
"I started about a year ago and it kind of blew my mind. I was like, 'Wow, I didn't think people really could go through stuff like this,'" he said. "It's literally just like a big, giant cave."
Micheal ended up working late Saturday and had to run straight from the mine, covered in soot, to the arena to meet Mollie and their three-year-old son, Easton. Easton was mesmerized.
"Pretty much anybody that dunked the ball was his favorite! Anybody that would jump up and dunk, he was like 'Ooooh! Look at him!!'" Mollie said.
Easton made a big impression on his section with his dance moves.
"I made the joke to my husband, somebody's going to record him dancing and it's going to go viral," Mollie said.
Turns out, Micheal and Easton attracted more attention than they ever could have imagined. Someone snapped a picture of the pair, remarking on how much respect they had for Micheal clearly running straight from work to bring Easton to the game. The Facebook post took off.
"My phone started going absolutely crazy," Mollie said.
It didn't take long for that photo to reach Coach Cal himself. He shared the photo and talked about his own family's background in the mines. "My family's American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home," he said.
Micheal was working underground all day Monday, he had no idea the photo of him and Easton had captured the hearts of so many Wildcat fans. When he came back above ground Monday afternoon, he was amazed at the attention.
"When I made it out and got service, my phone just started blowing up. I called my wife to figure out what was going on and she said, 'Glad to see you're figuring it out now!'"
Mollie had been dealing with the same thing. She said so many people were tagging her on Facebook that the app stopped loading. Then, there was a phone call from a number she didn't recognize.
"The phone rang and I had no clue who it was. I answered and he was like, 'Hey, it's Coach Cal!' and I just sat there, like, uhhh…it was a complete shock!" Mollie said.
Coach Cal invited Micheal, Mollie, Easton, and his little sister Lynlee to any game at Rupp this year to be treated like VIPs. For the McGuires, it was a chance to feel the love from the Big Blue Nation.
"We tell him all the time, as his immediate family, we appreciate you and everything you do, but just to see everyone else sharing their appreciation, their stories, it's been wonderful for him to see it’s not just us, everyone appreciates it. It's hard work. It's a blessing," Mollie said.
Most of all, an opportunity to pass on old traditions.
"Family means everything to me and I just wanted to make sure that they would have that memory, just like Micheal and his dad share," Mollie said.
The family isn't sure yet which game they will attend. They're looking forward to making more Big Blue memories.