On a day when the University of Kentucky football program made it’s best head coaching hire in my life time (23 years old), we the fans can thank a former Wildcat great for coming back to his alma mater in it’s darkest hour and helping UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart make arguably the best hire possible for a football program that has fallen on hard times.
While many will credit Hal Mumme’s innovative pass-happy for revving Kentucky football after the Bill Curry debacle in the 90’s, it was actually the arm of one Tim Couch who threw his way into the UK, SEC, and NCAA record books on his way to becoming #1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. While his professional success didn’t quite live up to what everyone had hoped for, no one can deny he made UK football relevant again.
After setting a number of national high school passing records at Leslie County High School while being named Kentucky Mr. football, and also as ESPN’s 6th-greatest high school athlete of all-time:
6. Tim Couch (Leslie County High, Hyden, Ky.)
As a prep QB, Couch set all kinds of national high school records — most pass completions (872), passing yardage (12,104), TD passes (133), and passing percentage for a season (75.1). Some of those have been broken in the pass-happy years since, but Couch was selected as the best high school QB of the last 20 years, and we agree.
So do others. “Couch is the best quarterback prospect I’ve seen in 17 years,” Tom Lemming, a high school football guru, told SI in 1995. “Better than Jeff George, Ron Powlus and Peyton Manning. He reminds recruiters of John Elway.”
Couch was no slouch as a hoopster, either. He scored 36 ppg as a junior, tops in the state, and was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball
Couch had the world at his feet, and nearly every major college program wanting his services. Why would a talent like that ever go to a school like UK that had won an average of three games in the past five seasons? He simply wanted to go to the school of his home-state and revive the program and bring them national relevance. He did just that, leading UK to 12 wins in his two season as the UK starting QB. He was a finalist for the Heisman, defeated Alabama for the first time in 75 years, and lead UK to it’s only New Year’s day bowl game since the 1952 Cotton Bowl.