By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s still hard for Craig Yeast to believe that it was over 20 years ago when he was playing in a New Year’s Day bowl with Kentucky.
That was back in 1998 when the Cats lost to Penn State in the Outback Bowl in Tampa when Tim Couch was the quarterback, Anthony White the top running back, Yeast the No. 1 receiver and Hal Mumme the head coach.
Recently Kentucky athletics posted a photo on Twitter of Couch and Yeast in Hawaiian shirts holding footballs with a suitcase on a table in front of them as they prepared to head to Tampa.
“I saw that and just looking at the picture of us, we were so young at that time,” Yeast laughed and said. “We had a lot of fun and good times. We had to work hard to get to that point. It was very rewarding for us to get to a New Year’s Day bowl just like I am sure it has been for this year’s Kentucky team.”
Yeast, who recently was named the new head football coach at Kentucky Wesleyan, admits he never though it would take so long for UK to get back to a New Year’s Day bowl. He had 208 catches (most ever in the SEC at that time) for 2,899 yards and 28 scores at UK. He still ranks fifth in the SEC in catches, eighth in TD catches and ninth in receiving yards.
“I thought the program was heading the right direction, and it was. I believe that was about the time probation hit after I left and then the program went backward. Rich Brooks came in and did a phenomenal job resurrecting the program.
“Coach (Mark) Stoops has done a phenomenal job, too. The way they have recruited and the caliber of talent they have, they look like a SEC football team. In years past Kentucky football did not necessarily look like that. They have done a great job identifying talent, developing depth up front. I am very happy with the job he is doing, and so are other former players I know.”
Yeast, who played three years in the NFL and four in the Canadian Football League, has coached both in high school and college. He was receivers coach at Tiffin University and spent the last three years as offensive coordinator at Franklin College in Indiana where he had Division III’s most productive offenses.
He jokes that most of his players have to “look me up (on the internet)” to find out about his playing career.
“They find out I had a pretty decent career at Kentucky and then they see the statistics of where I coached,” Yeast said.
He hopes to periodically bring in former UK teammates like Couch, White and others to speak to his Wesleyan players.
“I think that could be a big advantage. I believe in order to have success, you have to be able to draw on the guys you know who had success,” Yeast said. “I would like to pick up the phone and call guys like Couch, Anthony and others to spend some time with my staff and players. I want to try and get those guys to come down and be part of the program because there’s nothing that can do but help us.”