UK Football: Former player Jeremy Jarmon using both good and bad experiences to help Wildcats
Former Kentucky defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon is on the UK staff this year and says he can use his experiences, both positive and negative, to help the young Wildcats. (Clay Jackson / September 11, 2012)
LEXINGTON — Jeremy Jarmon, newly hired as the director of player relations for the University of Kentucky football team, sits in his new office at the Nutter Training Center, reflecting on his time as a football player at UK. The favorite games, the cherished memories, the mistakes made — all bring about different facial expressions and different recollections from Jarmon.
But one mistake stands out above all else. It is the one negative that Jarmon is remembered for during his time at UK.
Down his face glides a single tear, which he quickly brushes away and apologizes for.
“It’s hard,” he said.
What he is remembering, of course, is the day he was told he would not be allowed to play his senior year at UK because he used an over-the-counter, NCAA-banned substance as a dietary supplement. Jarmon was forced to enter the NFL supplemental draft, where he went to the Washington Redskins, thus beginning a short professional football career hampered by injuries.
Now, Jarmon has retired from the NFL and joined the staff at UK, where he can use his experiences, both positive and negative, to help the next batch of Wildcats in football and in life.
“I made enough decisions that were good and bad throughout my life… I just feel like it was fate for me to be in a position like this where I can share my experiences and relate to these guys,” he said.
As Jarmon is explaining his new duties, the stillness of the office is interrupted by the ping of a cell phone. Looking down, he said, “One of the guys texting me trying to get another one of his teammates’ numbers because he’s trying to get in touch with him for some lab or something.”
It is these little things that are part of Jarmon’s job description at UK, but his responsibility as a whole is not so tiny. Whether it’s distributing teammates’ phone numbers, encouraging players to get involved on campus or contacting the chief of police about a potential legal issue, Jarmon plays a crucial role in the players’ lives off the football field.
“The coaches have so much time invested in the schematics of preparing the players to win on Saturdays, but I get a chance to sit down and really check these guys’ pulse and learn about them,” he said. “And I’m like a big brother. I know when the guys need some tough love, and I know when they just need me to hug them.”
It’s easier for the current crop of UK football players to consider Jarmon a “big brother” since he is not far removed from his own time as a member of the team. It is a special situation, yet one that is becoming less and less unique at the University of Kentucky. Jarmon is the most recent in a long line of former players who have joined the football program’s staff, including Jarmon’s former teammates, Andre’ Woodson and Braxton Kelley. Bringing these former players back to Lexington, whether as staff members of visitors, is now a focus of UK’s, and especially one of head coach Joker Phillips.
“They (former players) have been coming back for our practices,” he said. “They’re taking a lunch break to swing by, or sneaking away from their wife to come watch football practice on the weekend…These are our guys, this is our fraternity. And when you have your fraternity of guys that are on board with you, you’ve got your brothers backing you up, it makes you feel good.”
Part of building that “fraternity” within the UK football program begins with recruiting – something that Jarmon credits Phillips with doing in the right way.
“When a coach comes back from a visit, at the staff meeting, he’ll say, ‘This guy, he’s this, and he scored three times last night.’ First question coach Phillips has asked consistently is, ‘What kind of guy is he?’” Jarmon said. “That is his trademark question in those meetings. For him, it’s about winning but it’s about winning with the right guys.”
Once those recruits make it to Lexington, it is now Jarmon’s duty to keep them happy and involved at UK. What Jarmon cites as the reasoning behind his position’s creation is the disappearance of UK’s 2009 recruiting class. Out of the 16 three-star recruits Rich Brooks signed in his last class as UK coach, only five remain. While the vanishing of the ’09 recruiting class can be attributed to many factors (academics, Brian Adams choosing baseball, injuries, legal issues), Jarmon offered another explanation.
“Inside these walls, there’s not anyone lukewarm about what we’re doing. And anyone that’s lukewarm, I think coach Phillips will be the first one to show them the exit…and the players that have not been hot about Kentucky football, they’ve either had problems academically, or they’ve been over-recruited and they decided to transfer,” he said. “That’s what happens when your program starts to turn the corner, you start seeing guys transfer because they know the guy coming in from high school is better than he is…That’s not a very bad problem to have.”
Regardless of how the ’09 recruiting class got to where it is now, the fact remains that UK wants to avoid similar situations in the future. That is what Jarmon is for – to lead incoming recruits into their Lexington lives and to be there for them when that life gets tough. The time he spent involved on UK’s campus, the relationships he built with UK administration during his NCAA troubles, and the tears he has shed over the loss of his final season have built Jarmon into the kind of inspirational figure that current players can go to.
Whether it is for help with a legal issue or a girlfriend problem, for a phone number or a hug, players already feel comfortable going to Jarmon.
“I’ve had a few guys just stop by to thank me,” he said. “They come by just to say, ‘thanks for helping us out.’”
And that’s just what a big brother is for.