The second commercial, the one that ran in 2014, made more of an impact, however, if simply for what it symbolized. In it, Stoops asks the question of “Why Kentucky?” as images of players appear on the screen. Near the end of the 60-second ad, several players, in uniform, stand steady and stern, looking into the camera. In the forefront, his arms folded, is quarterback Drew Barker.
Running back Boom Williams, who rushed for more than 800 yards as a sophomore despite missing two games, was in that class. Wide receiver Dorian Baker, who led the Cats with 55 catches a year ago, was in that class. Matt Elam, a five-star defensive line prospect who turned down Alabama in favor of his home-state school, was in that class. Wide receiver Garrett Johnson, with 68 catches his first two years, was in that class. Mikel Horton, who rushed for 624 yards, was in that class.
At the time, the former Conner High School star had not played a down for the Cats. In fact, he had just signed his national letter-of-intent and graduated from high school early so that he could enroll at UK for the spring semester. Yet the prominent presence of Barker was a clear signal about who would be the future leader of Kentucky football.
You remember the Super Bowl commercial, right?
The same goes for the new UK Football Training Facility. Back in 2014, that was merely on Stoops’ drawing board, an idea that needed administrative backing and financial support. Now, the $45 million building connected to the Nutter Field House and neighboring Commonwealth Stadium is in use, complete with new practice fields and a state-of-the-art dining hall. It’s SEC quality, which in terms of football is a full-blown compliment.
Not a commercial for the Super Bowl, mind you. This was the commercial for Kentucky football that ran to a regional audience during the Super Bowl. The school’s marketing department started the now-annual tradition in 2013, just after Mark Stoops had been hired as the new head coach. The first ad featured lightning, air raid sirens, the ringing of what sounded like a large church bell and Stoops’ voice. It made an impression.