John Schlarman lost a two-year fight with cancer Thursday. He was 45. (Photo by Chet White|UK Athletics)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — It didn’t take long for John Schlarman to make an impact on Mark Stoops.
“When you meet someone like John, how could you not love him?” Stoops said. “He really is a great human being, a great person, unbelievably positive, a hard-working, loyal, blue-collar guy. A great family man and there’s nothing not to like. We hit it off immediately and it was a no-brainer.”
At the time, Schlarman was recommended to join Kentucky’s staff by Weat Virginia coach and former Wildcats offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
“Thank goodness for us (Neal recommended him),” Stoops said. “John is just a remarkable man, he really is. He inspired all of us and (was) so likable and so knowledgeable, he did a remarkable job for us.”
Schlarman, offensive line coach for the Wildcats for the past eight seasons, passed away Thursday following a two-year battle with a cancerous form of cholangiocarcinoma. Schlarman, who also played for the Wildcats from 1994-97, was 45.
“He was such a good person, we gave him the nickname, ‘The Great American,’” Stoops said. “That’s truly what our staff thought of John — the Great American. That’s who he is. He made all of us better and we’re all striving to be more like him each and every day.”
Stoops and his staff endured their first practice since Schlarman’s death early Thursday. Schlarman coached in the Wildcats’ 34-7 win over Tennessee on Oct. 19 in Knoxville, but missed the past two games, including a 14-3 loss to Georgia on Oct. 31 in Lexington.
“It’s hard to state the impact he had on me, our staff and our kids,” Stoops said. “We greatly appreciate John and all the work that he did here, but more importantly the man that he was and the legacy that he leaves. We will work extremely hard to honor his legacy for many years to come.”
Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari admired Schlarman and said the “Kentucky family has lost a great and courageous warrior.”
“Coach Schlarman was a fighter who continued coaching to the very end because he cared so deeply about the kids — a truly sad day,” Calipari said.
Throughout his coaching career with the Wildcats, Stoops said the team’s offensive line took on Schlarman’s work ethic and approach on and off the field.
“I don’t think there’s any question that our offensive line has the identity of John Schlarman,” the Kentucky coach said. “That’s who he was and as a player. The team respected him as (being) so tough and just relentless.”
“That’s what we want our offensive line to look like — they’re well-coached and they play extremely hard, fundamentally sound and give everything they have and that’s certainly John.”
One of Kentucky’s most influential faces on the recruiting trail throughout the Bluegrass, Stoops said Schlarman’s impact won’t be forgotten.
“He has been important and influential in (the) state since Day 1,” Stoops said. “His legacy will continue.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @keithtaylor21.