By Dr. John Huang
The 2019 Kentucky Sports Figure of the the Year voting is complete. And the winner is…Lynn Bowden, Jr.
Thank goodness. If Lamar Jackson had won, I think Michael Bennett’s head would have exploded. Not surprisingly, the U of L folks cried foul, and Michael felt so strongly about it that he did something he rarely does–he wrote a post about it.
Personally, I don’t see what all the controversy is about. Lynn and Lamar are both deserving athletes with legitimate ties to the state. It just so happens that I thought one of them had noticeably more of a direct impact on the Commonwealth than the other.
Of the ten finalists selected, I agreed on eight of them. Just to show you that I’m no U of L hater, I substituted Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell in place of Kentucky volleyball star Lead Edmond. I also went with U of L women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz in place of football coach Scott Satterfield.
Here’s my actual ballot
1. Lynn Bowden—Not only does the dude set all kinds of quarterback rushing records, but when his team faces adversity, he puts them squarely on his back and carries them on to victory. It’s the stuff legends are made of. The GOAT, the DRIVE—whatever else you want to call it—Lynn Bowden deserves all the accolades.
2. Lamar Jackson—The guy won this same award when he was in college. How can he not be considered for it again when he’s now excelling at the top of his profession? The fraternity of NFL quarterbacks is extremely selective. With the league MVP up for grabs, Lamar has proven once again that he’s the best of the best.
3. Walker Buehler—OK people, we’re talking Major Leagues here. Ace pitcher for a playoff contender automatically vaults Walker to the top of my list. A 14-4 record with 215 K’s. Are you kidding me? Might as well hand over that award right now.
4. Abbey Cheek—“I like to hit,” Abbey once told me. Boy did she. The all-time UK home run king, SEC Player of the Year, and National Player of the Year deserves special recognition. Not only did she like to hit, but she could field too. Tremendously underrated and underappreciated in all aspects of the sport if you ask me.
5. Jeff Walz—Quality coach with everything but an NCAA championship on his resume. Might just check that one off by the end of this year. Cards are consistently a Final Four threat. Plus, he avoided the scandals that rocked his administration.
6. Dan McDonnell—If consistency is the mark of greatness, then Dan McDonnell deserves to be in the conversation. Year in and year out, he’s got the Cards ticketed for Omaha. Five College World Series appearances is nothing to scoff at. Plus, if character counts, then McDonnell gets extra credit. I want my sons playing for him.
7. Mark Stoops—Winning eight games at Kentucky is difficult. Changing the culture of the long-suffering Kentucky Football program is next to impossible. Coach Stoops did both this year. Built the program brick by brick. Kicked down doors. We’re just getting started, bro!
8. Ja Morant—He’s a human highlight reel who singlehandedly put Murray State back on the basketball map. As the 2nd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, he brought a heck of a lot of excitement back into the state during the month of June. If his rookie season in the pros is any indication, we’ll be hearing his name called for years to come.
9. Asia Durr—As a fan of a rival school, I’ll measure an opposing player’s talent by how glad I am to see them move on. I’m glad to see Asia Durr move one. For four years, her deadly three-point stroke was the proverbial thorn in Kentucky’s side.
10. Rhyne Howard—A player like Howard only comes around every once in a decade or two. So smooth, with an instinctual nose for the game…and a deadly three-point shot to boot. It’s only a matter of time before she puts the team on her back and carries Kentucky all the way to a Final Four.