The Franklin County High School gymnasium was packed Tuesday afternoon when Ryan Timmons walked in. What must it be like to know you’re the fastest guy in the building, wherever you are?
And that’s why Mark Stoops wanted him so badly. Timmons was so dominant on football fields in central Kentucky for the past two seasons it was as though he had a five-yard head start on each play. All the Flyers had to do was get him the football and there was a pretty good chance he would run until he was in the end zone. They made it look that simple.
Stoops and his offensive coordinator, Neal Brown, want to run plays like that. And they need guys like Timmons to make it work, which is why, the first chance they got, they headed straight down U.S. 60 to Frankfort. Or I-64. When you’re the new head coach at Kentucky, all roads lead to FCHS and its outrageously-talented receiver.
“It shows how much they care,” he said, admitting that his status as First Recruit definitely turned his head. “When they came to see me, I started to consider them and listen to what they had to say.”
He was talking to Ohio State and Arkansas; he could have signed with Florida and played for new receivers coach Joker Phillips. But Timmons touched off an explosive roar louder than any he heard on Friday nights by announcing he would play for the University of Kentucky.
His mother smiled knowingly, and why not? Only she and Franklin County coach Chris Tracy knew what Timmons was going to say as he sat behind an array of caps – Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio State and Florida. She got the first hug as Timmons pulled on the blue and white lid; he hugged his grandmother and then stood to hug both of his sisters as Grandma gave the thumbs up with both hands. UK fans throughout the Big Blue Nation no doubt were doing the same thing.
Stoops and company have made statements already with some of the commitments they’ve received, but this was special. A big play offense had just snagged a big-play guy. And he already knows his way around the playbook.
“I’ve been running this offense since seventh grade,” said Timmons, who has been part of a system installed at FCHS several years ago by ex-UK assistant coach Tony Franklin, who tweaked Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense and traveled the land working as a football consultant, before landing another coaching job.
Timmons already is thinking about getting his future teammates on board with it. “I can help them out and teach other players,” he said.
The newest Wildcat (not officially so until his letter of intent clears the UK football office fax machine on Wednesday) said he had talked to other commits prior to making his decision, and pledged he would do the same, starting with Trinity defensive end Jason Hatcher. If he hasn’t made the call, he might be able to call instead with congratulations.
A number of news agencies, not long after Timmons’ announcement, reported that Hatcher, who backed away from his commitment to Southern California shortly after Stoops was hired, is heading for Kentucky. ESPN.com quoted his mother as saying her son would play for the Wildcats. If/when his letter clears the fax Wednesday at the Nutter Center, you might see the roof lift off its moorings.
Kentucky could be on its way to a Top 25 recruiting class, which would be huge for this brand new staff. But it also will serve as a lesson they might already know: 25th in the country could be 13th in the Southeastern Conference.
But they also know this: Trying to win with guys like Ryan Timmons and Jason Hatcher will be a lot easier than trying to figure out how to beat them.
(Dick Gabriel is in his 24th season with the UK TV and Radio Networks, and can be heard on the Big Blue Insider Monday through Friday from 6-8 p.m. ET on 630 WLAP-AM and wlap.com.)