Kentucky lines up without LG to honor late coach

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

Kentucky honored offensive line coach John Schlarman, who passed away this week after a prolonged battle with cancer, by lining up without a left guard and taking a delay of game penalty on the first play from scrimmage against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Vanderbilt declined the penalty.

Kentucky senior left tackle Landon Young then came in on the next play, wearing Schlarman’s No. 65 jersey.

Schlarman was a four-year starter at Kentucky from 1994-97, taking home All-SEC honors as a senior, before going into the coaching profession.

He coached at Troy before returning to Kentucky as part of head coach Mark Stoops first staff in 2013. Schlarman’s offensive lines were among the best in the SEC, nicknamed “The Big Blue Wall.” In 2016 and 2019, they were semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s top offensive line.

Schlarman was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts, more than two years ago. He rarely missed a practice, shuttling back and forth from Lexington to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to receive treatments.

Recently the cancer had spread to his liver, lungs and peritoneal cavity.

Schlarman, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 45, was beloved by players and coaches for his kindness, determination and overwhelming optimism. Stoops said his nickname was “The Great American” because he was so well liked.

Fellow assistant coach Vince Marrow said he’d never met anyone as strong as Schlarman, calling him his hero.

“I’m heartbroken to learn about the passing of my friend, John Schlarman,” Stoops said in a statement. “My prayers go out to LeeAnne and the kids, Joseph, Benjamin, Matthew and Evelyn, through this very difficult time.

“John was everything we all strive to be — honest, tough, fair, respected. Kentucky football won’t be the same without him but his legacy will never fade. He was a fighter and we will strive every day to honor his warrior spirit.”

Drake Jackson, a veteran offensive lineman, told ESPN in March that Schlarman was — and remained — the funniest person in the building.

“He has a charisma and a work ethic all coaches strive for,” Jackson said. “He’s just a complete person. It’s not fake. It’s not artificial.”

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