By LARRY VAUGHT
If there is one scene from Kentucky’s victory over Florida Saturday night that ended a 31-year losing streak to the Gators, it will be seeing offensive line coach John Schlarman receive a game ball from coach Mark Stoops.
It’s not just that Kentucky ran for 303 yards, including 175 by Benny Snell. It’s not that Kentucky was able to get needed first downs on the ground.
No, this was about saying thanks to Schlarman for the incredible will and courage he’s showing to continue to coach — and obviously coach well — despite undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
About the only one who doesn’t think he’s doing anything extraordinary is Schlarman. He attributes part of that to Bill Curry, his former coach at Kentucky,
“Coach Curry always talked about when you crossed those white lines (to get on the football field), it was time to focus and you don’t have to worry about anything else going on in the world,” Schlarman said. “He told us that. Whether it was academics, social, family … you cross the white lines and you can get an escape and just worry about football. That’s kind of the way I have been my whole life and how I treat it right now.”
Coach Mark Stoops was emotional at UK’s Media Day in early August when he revealed that Schlarman, an all-SEC offensive lineman at Kentucky and successful high school coach in Kentucky, had cancer. He got emotional again after Saturday’s win talking about his assistant coach.
“You have got a guy fighting for his life. There are days he’s been to chemo and then shows up for practice. What kind of excuse can you give if you are a guy being late or not working hard?” Stoops told Tom Leach on the UK Radio Network after the game. “Everybody loves John. How can you give a legend like that an excuse for not paying attention and there’s no excuse for not leaving it all on the field.”
Schlarman always did that as a player. He had a non-stop motor and played with the same in-state pride that players like Kash Daniel are now. He admitted to me last week there are some “down” times for him, but not many.
“Sometimes it is about 48 hours after chemo. That night (of chemo) is when it kind of crawls up on me. But after that I have gotten up the next morning and felt good. Once I get past about a 48-hour period I feel more rested. That’s been good,” Schlarman said.
“Coach (Stoops) has been phenomenal. He has told me if I need to go or rest or do whatever, go do it to make sure I am handling this. As an employee, you cherish working for a guy like that. That’s what is awesome about this situation for me.”
Schlarman says every coach gets tired because of the hours coaching in the SEC requires. He jokes if he was healthy, he would still be tired at times.
“It’s hot, we are coaching hard and running around trying to set a good tempo for the players. I am not going to say we don’t ever get tired, but I am just trying to keep doing what I have done for years and treat it like there is nothing different going out one we get out here,” Schlarman said.
Stoops calls Schlarman a “strong man” for how he’s coping with cancer and his treatment. Schlarman says coaching, especially on game day, has provided some normalcy for him and his family that he appreciates Stoops letting him have.
“It’s what we have done for the last 20 years. My wife and I, and ever since we had kids, this is what we have done. I think if we had done something different (on game day) it probably would have been tough,” Schlarman said. “I think getting out there, coaching and seeing everybody after winning, it probably made us forget about some other things and let us enjoy a moment that we all really needed.”