Former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme remembers Jared Lorenzen, the ‘unbelievable’ athlete

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme has no trouble remembering the first time he met Jared Lorenzen.

Mumme was preparing for spring practice in his first year as UK’s coach by watching film with quarterback Tim Couch and assistant coach Chris Hatcher when the quarterback walked down the hallway.

“I just felt this presence behind us in the room,” Mumme told the Courier Journal on Wednesday in an interview after news broke of Lorenzen’s death. “I turned around and there’s this person blocking out the light from the hallway. He looks at me and I said, ‘Can we help you?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m Jared Lorenzen. I want to be your quarterback someday.’.

“When I first met him, I was thinking he might be my left tackle someday. … Then we got him in camp and it was really apparent he was so talented. Not just his arm, but his feet. Most people forget how well he could run.”.

As that camp closed, Mumme set up the normal punt, pass and kick competition in which players compete to see how far they can throw or kick a ball.

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“Jared was about the second or third one to go, and he threw it 90 yards in the air and was like 6 inches off the line,” Mumme said. “All the others quit. They didn’t even compete.”.

A few years later, after Lorenzen signed to play with Kentucky, he visited campus again for the quarterback camp. This time he was only supposed to be an observer, but when he watched the latest group of top-flight recruits participate in a drill in which Mumme, the founder of the “Air Raid” offense, was gauging the quarterback prospects’ arm strength with a radar gun, Lorenzen asked if he might take a turn.

“All of these big-name quarterbacks were doing this,” Mumme said. “They were all throwing it right around 48 to 52 miles an hour. … He’s got his penny loafers on and his little button-down shirt, and he throws it 68 miles an hour. It just blew everybody away.”.

In case Mumme needed any more proof of Lorenzen’s surprising athleticism, it came in the spring of 1999 from Couch’s father, Elbert Couch, who stopped by a UK spring practice after watching Lorenzen and Highlands play a basketball state tournament game at Rupp Arena.

Lorenzen, the 1998 Mr. Kentucky football, and teammate Derek Smith, who would go on to star as Lorenzen’s tight end at UK, had reached the Sweet 16 in their secondary sport, but the Kentucky fans in attendance knew how the duo would be impacting Big Blue Nation moving forward.

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“I was riding in this golf cart at practice, and (Elbert Couch) came and got in the cart with me,” Mumme said. “He said, ‘Well, I just saw something I’ve never seen at Rupp Arena and I’ll probably never see it again.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘Well, Jared inbounded the ball, hurled it down the court to a streaking Derek Smith, and Derek grabbed it, dunked it, and 24,000 people stood up and screamed, “Touchdown Kentucky!”‘”.

See also:Jared Lorenzen’s top five moments playing for Kentucky football.

Lorenzen would go on to throw more touchdowns than all but one quarterback in UK program history, but it was far from an obvious choice when Mumme named him the Wildcats’ starter in the spring of 2000 after Lorenzen’s redshirt season.

Dusty Bonner had just led the Wildcats to the Music City Bowl as quarterback, but Mumme was convinced Lorenzen was the program’s future. By making the announcement of the quarterback switch in the spring, Lorenzen was afforded a full offseason to prepare and Bonner was able to transfer to Valdosta State, where he would twice win the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in Division II football.

“He just had so much ability,” Mumme said. “It was apparent to me that he was going to earn the job anyway.”.

Mumme’s and Lorenzen’s paths diverged after the 2000 season, when the former UK coach resigned amid a recruiting scandal that eventually landed the program in probation that cost Lorenzen his only shot at a bowl game.

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The two remained friends over the years, swapping stories from Lorenzen’s time with the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants and Mumme’s numerous stops around the football world.

“He was a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal person,” Mumme said. “One of the most affable people I’ve ever been around.”.

Insider:There will never be another like Kentucky football great Jared Lorenzen.

Follow Jon Hale on Twitter @JonHale_CJ.