Pair of former UK players will be coaching for EKU Saturday

The 2023 EKU football staff has a little Kentucky Wildcat flair to it.
Pair of former UK players will be coaching for EKU Saturday
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 7:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - The 2023 EKU football staff has a little Kentucky Wildcat flair to it.

Aside from Walt Wells being a part of Mark Stoops’ staff in 2018 and 2019, a pair of his assistants both wore the blue and white, and coached at Kentucky.

Former UK tight end (2015-18), graduate assistant, and quality control coach, CJ Conrad, is now the Tight Ends Coach for the Colonels.

“I made sure that that was very clear to them when I first introduced myself, was like yeah, I’m 27 years old. I’m not far removed from playing. I get it. I understand how hard this thing is, but I told them, ‘I’m going to coach the crap out of ya,’ I’m going to demand a lot of things out of them, but I’m also going to love them,” Conrad said. “One thing that I learned from Coach [Vince] Marrow is it’s about the relationships. Anyone can draw up on a board and give them all these techniques, but if they don’t want to run through a wall for you on Saturday, ultimately it doesn’t matter.”

Colonels fifth-year quarterback Parker McKinney is statistically one of EKU’s best players in the program’s history. Running that QB room, is former UK quarterback Maxwell Smith.

Like Conrad, he was at one point a GA in Lexington, now he’s the Quarterbacks Coach in Richmond.

“He worked some defense at Kentucky with his time there on the coaching staff, and so he really understands defenses really well, so as far as that aspect, he’s really been able to help me a lot, along with a lot of other things in my game as well,” McKinney said of his QB coach.

Smith said having McKinney as a QB1 has made his job a little easier.

“I’m just blessed to have him in my room and helping me as this is my first Division One coaching job, and to have a guy like that is certainly a blessing and hopefully he can help all the young guys I have in my room as well, Smith said. “I joke with people, you know, I can only mess this thing up now, you know, he was a heck of a player last year.”

Smith and Conrad’s game plan came together for EKU’s lone touchdown in their opener at Cincinnati, when McKinney found tight end Hunter Brown for a 17-yard score.

Now the two prepare for a homecoming of sorts, taking the field at UK as a visitor for the first time.

“It’s going to be strange for sure. I’ve never been in the away locker room. I don’t even know where it is, but I think I’ll find it, and then get out there, shake Coach Stoops’ hand and the rest of the guys, put the ball down and go play ball,” Smith said.

Conrad joked that he also didn’t know where the visitor’s locker room was.

“A lot of history. A lot of relationships there. I’m still very close with a lot of the staff, a lot of the players, but it’s a game and we’re there to win. That’s what you have to do. If you don’t approach it that way, why even show up,” Conrad said. “We’re going to compete and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got and I’m excited for it. Yes, it’s going to be weird, but man, I cannot wait.”

UK opened as a 25.5 point favorite over EKU. The Wildcats lead the series 5-0.