HAZARD —The University of Pikeville football team, which already includes several Perry County residents on its roster, will add five more Perry County players in the fall semester, while an additional 12 students from Hazard High School, Letcher and Leslie County are also joining the squad.
The University of Pikeville’s new head football coach, Dudley Hilton, has said that he is hoping to recruit many of his players from the area so that families and fans would be able to see them play close to home. He has been able to stay true to his word by signing 16 players from Perry, Letcher, and Leslie Counties, with six coming from Hazard’s state championship football team.
Players from Perry Central include Jared Deaton, Matthew Robinson, Jay White, Kyle Huff and Bryan Rankin.
Pikeville Offense and Quarterback Coach Allen Holland noted with so many student-athletes being signed from the local area, they will already be familair with each other because they have either played on the same team, or against one another all through AAU and middle and high school. He added that this year’s group is a great class of freshmen.
“This is a special group of guys,” said Holland. “These guys are going to come in here and help us build our program to the top.”
Currently, UPike has several players from Perry County, although this year’s class is an exceptional number of students from one area. UPike has made a commitment to serving this area, and by offering so many scholarships to local students Holland says they are following through.
“We play more Kentucky kids than any institution in the state of Kentucky,” said Holland. “To get the best of the best in the state of Kentucky, not just in Eastern Kentucky, is big for our program.”
Holland said that another motivating factor in signing so many players from such a close area is that many of them have played together or against one another for several years. He said this helps to build a bond and alleviate some of the stress of moving to college.
“It helps to have the guys that all know each other, and it makes it an easier transition for all those kids coming in to college,” said Holland.
As for the parents and high school coaches of the players, they see it a bit differently. It allows them to stay close to their players and see more games than if they went to a school far away.
“To get to watch six guys play in college close to home, that is a great thing,” said Hazard Coach Mark Dixon. “I like it because they are not too far down the road. We can jump in the car on a Saturday and go watch some football.”
Another way UPike is looking to help these fans is by possibly moving one of their scrimmages to Hazard.
“I know that Eastern (Kentucky University) has come in here in the past and did a scrimmage game,” said Holland. “With the number of guys that we are getting from this area, we may move one of our scrimmages.”
Coach Dixon said that it is through things like getting to watch an Eastern scrimmage and now possibly a UPike one that his players realize what it takes to play at the next level. He said this has helped them to motivate the players and he is excited about his current players possibly having to chance to see former players doing well.
“So that will be great not only for us, but for all you guys and the family to come support you in the scrimmage,” said Holland.
Holland added that all of the 16 players from the area are not just having the opportunity to play football, but they are also getting a good, free education because of all of their hard work both on and off the field in high school.