LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) - Former UK football coach Joker Phillips lamented the fact that Louisville was once UK country when it came to football recruiting. Phillips set his sights on top targets in the city. He was able to land some of those players, but when the Big Blue ship started sinking, the recruiting pipeline Phillips attempted to open was washed out.
Bucking the trend, first year Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was able to sign Trinity's Jason Hatcher, one of the nation's premier defensive end prospects.
"I believed in what the coaches were going to do here," Hatcher said.
Hatcher hopes more of Jefferson County's players will buy in to Kentucky.
"It would mean more to have guys here from Louisville for the simple fact that this is a state school, but it's going to be hard to compete with U of L being in town versus us being here in Lexington," he says.
The numbers seem to confirm Hatcher's theory. Hatcher is one of just seven players from Louisville on the 2013 Kentucky football roster. The 2013 Louisville roster has nearly two dozen players from the Derby City.
Hatcher says he has talked with other players at Trinity, hoping they will follow him to Lexington. Some of the other area players are following his lead.
"I went to my high school to talk to a couple of kids and some other people back home who had just graduated, "said former Male running back John Giddens.
Manual High School graduate Thomas Chapman has also tried to lobby players in Jefferson County on Kentucky's behalf. He believes it's important for Louisville to be represented in Big Blue Nation.
"There's a lot of talent in the city. It would benefit us a lot to have that talent to UK and help this program," according to Chapman.
Stoops made it clear on UK's Media Day that Louisville will be a focus because of the talent and the coaching those players receive on the high school level. The SEC will always be a draw, but the success of Louisville and the Cardinals imminent move to the ACC will continue to present obstacles to getting players to leave their hometown.
"We'll be in there recruiting extremely hard," Stoops says.
He has help from his Louisville-area players. A team effort could rebuild a road that once led to Lexington, but now seems to end at Floyd Street at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.