COACH JOKER PHILLIPS
JOKER PHILLIPS: Injury report: Demarco Robinson, strained oblique. That’s it. I’m used to coming in here with a list of things on that report.
But I thought first thing you could see ‑‑ first of all, I’m proud of the seniors, for sending those guys out as winners on their senior day. I think we’ve had three straight years we’ve sent our seniors out as winners, which is important.
Before that I don’t know if we had many. I know in my day we didn’t have many that ‑‑ I know the schedule was a little bit different, we had Florida and Tennessee every year, but last year we had Tennessee, also. We’ve got a chance to send three straight senior classes out as winners.
I thought we did a good job on 3rd down, both offense, defense. I thought both sides of the ball we won the line of scrimmage, which is important. We did put the ball on the ground one time going in, but the defense actually created a turnover and scooped and scored, so that was getting it back for us.
A lot of ‑‑ one of the things you see is a lot of young kids making plays. I thought we looked a lot fresher. You talk about going through 10 straight weeks, it’s a grind, and having an open week and getting the guys’ legs back underneath them, getting them back mentally ‑‑ when you’re playing a young team, it can be even more of a grind on those guys. So I thought having a week off definitely helped, and you could see they looked a little bit faster. We didn’t make as many mistakes. I thought our quarterbacks both had command of the football, Jalen Whitlow and (Patrick) Towles. So I thought those guys played well, also.
Q. Your emotions to your players carrying you off the field?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Really this is true: It didn’t really happen. I mean, I’m really ‑‑ I’m numb to all this. I’m pretty numb to all of this. I understand it. But it’s a numbing feeling that you just realize it’s time to go. It’s time to go, and I understand that. Very seldom do you get 10 years at a place. The 10 years has been ‑‑ it seems like it’s longer than that, but it also has been a grind for me. It has. It’s been a grind for me.
I can remember when I first got back how I was really the only guy who knew the area and knew this program and knew the people around here. I mean, I can remember the first maybe three weeks, we were trying to get ready to go out on the road to recruit because it was a dead period, and I can remember Tony Neely coming into my office, and I’m shaking. I was that tired. I was never that exhausted. I was shaking because I was worn out. I was burning all night and day trying to get us a plan. I’m tired, no doubt about that. I did it for 10 years, so I’m tired, also.
So I’m a little bit numb to this whole thing. And then when somebody asks, what are you going to do? I’m probably going to sleep, get some sleep, first of all.
We poured our all into this, my wife and I did, and we’ll appreciate all the things that went into it. We’ll appreciate all the parents’ trusting in us, which we appreciate all the opportunities we got. We appreciate all the things that we got to do, okay. We probably wouldn’t have ever taken a trip to Ethiopia to take some of our kids, heading up there through Jason (Schlafer – associate AD) and Mitch Barnhart suggesting those things to give our kids an opportunity. I got to do a lot of things in this last 10 years, and it’s been rewarding.
I remember when we were going over the second time, I said, ‘You know what, Jason, I’ve thought about not going to Ethiopia.’ We’ve created Jeremy Jarmon’s position; ‘I said, maybe we should send Jeremy.’ But then when I got there, I said I would not want to miss the opportunity to see Larry Warford’s face as he’s in one of the mud huts, and I wouldn’t want to miss that opportunity.
We’ve had some great experiences here, but it’s time to go. It is. It’s time to go. After 10 years of doing what we’ve done, we’ve done a lot of good things, but it’s been a grind on us, also.
I was telling our team, I had an experience when I went to play with the Washington Redskins that I walked out of the locker room and there’s nobody there to greet me after. There was no friends, no family, because I was in an unfamiliar (place). My family didn’t come to see me play, and I mentioned it to my wife, and she vouched that she did not want any of our players to come out of the locker room and not have anybody to greet them, so she’s out there now greeting them. I said, ‘Why did you do it?’ She says because she loved the kids, and I think that’s important.
We done this thing the right way, and we’ve done a lot of things here. We’ve been to eight bowl games out of the 15. None of them have asterisks beside them. None of them have asterisks beside them, okay, and that’s important to me.
Another thing that I told our team that I was proud of is we get the seniors up ‑‑ we started a lot of traditions. The second time I came back here, and I had a chance to go some other places and saw different traditions. I didn’t think we had traditions here when I came back, and so we started a lot of traditions, and we started a tradition of getting our seniors up and letting them talk about their experience on the last game here at Kentucky, and then we’ll do it last game of their career, and a couple of our guys stood up and says, this is the first staff they’ve ever been on that ‑‑ from top to bottom the staff has character and the staff cares about them. They had me. That’s what this thing is about to me. Might not be that to anybody else, but that’s what it’s about to me. I wanted to put together that type of staff that cared about the players here.
There’s one of them knocking. (Laughter.)
Q. Over the last two weeks, how big a help has your wife been to you?
JOKER PHILLIPS: Big, but I’ve tried to help her. I’ve tried to help her. My life will ‑‑ when we’re going through a different job, as a coach, the coach’s life is ready made. It’s already made. My friends are going to be there to work with. She’ll figure out which dentist we use, which dry cleaner, she has to do all that, so she has to create new friends. I’ve been trying to help her. I don’t need help. I’ve done this before, and she’s done it before, too, but I think it’s important to help her more than me. My life is going to be already made. She’s going to have to pack up, create new friends, find out where we’re going to live at and do all those type of things. So I’ve tried to help her through this process.
Q. Did any of the players say anything that really touched you, that really stood out more?
JOKER PHILLIPS: All of it touches you. All of it touches you because it’s such an emotional time. This is a game of emotion, it is, and you get to see some of those emotions come out when a kid is getting ready to play his last game, or many of them will ‑‑ it’s definitely a last game here. Many of them only have one game left that they’ll ever put a uniform on. A lot of them think different but some of them in the back of their mind know it’s probably going to be it, so a lot of different emotions come out.
Q. Being carried off, getting to celebrate a win with those guys in the locker room tonight, because of that are you glad you came back?
JOKER PHILLIPS: I’m glad I was able to experience that with the seniors, yes.
Q. Question regarding having a chance to win back-to-back game against Tennessee …
JOKER PHILLIPS: When I came here in ’81 it was a big rival then, so it means more to me than maybe somebody in today’s football because they’re just getting here, because it was one of our program goals. It’s still one of those for me. We made that when I took over. It’s one of our program goals, and that’s why it’s important to me.
And then again, we want to finish this thing out strong and win the last two, give the seniors a chance to go out the right way.
Q. When you were going through those things today, you were numb to that whole thing, nothing ever hit you?
JOKER PHILLIPS: No, it didn’t. You know what, I didn’t realize I had packed my black suit. It’s like, it’s not like I’m going to a funeral. But no, I mean, it’s all the same. We’ll work again. We feel comfortable and confident that we will.
Q. But this is your home …
JOKER PHILLIPS: It is, but ‑‑ what was the girl’s name that left Kansas? Dorothy? (Laughing.)
You get to come back. You get to come back. The world has shrunk now with internet, with cell phones. I’ll stay in close contact with friends. Last time I had to leave, I came back to play, to compete against, and that’s always fun, also. We’re looking forward to what’s next.
Q. Could you imagine a scenario when you come back here as an assistant again?
JOKER PHILLIPS: I mean, that’s hard to ‑‑ I am not a spring chicken, you know? I’m not. I’m 50 years old. I don’t have a lot of time. I like to think I’m a young 50, but this game is going fast for me, and who knows, though. But I just think at this point it’s hard to say anything like that.
Q. I know you can’t say any names, but what have you said to recruits and what have they said to you?
JOKER PHILLIPS: You know, I really haven’t ‑‑ I had a chance to talk to one today, and I just told him this is the place for him. Be proud to put this UK on, this interlocking UK on. I expect him to represent it the right way. That’s the only thing I’ve said. I just didn’t think it was right for me to use the call that our administration would want to make on some of the recruits.
But if they called me I would answer. I missed a couple because of our schedule, but I did get a chance to talk to one, and the one thing I told him, hey, this is the right place for you. It is. It’s a good place. You’re going to be surrounded by some really, really, really good players. You’ve got a chance to see some of them tonight. This is the right place. You chose this place for a reason. You didn’t choose this for us, for coaches. You choose a place because of the players, because of the support people. That’s the reason you choose a place, not for the coaches.