Jacob Hyde Senior Day Interview—By John Huang
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) — Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday that Jacob Hyde stepped on campus for the very first time to play football for the University of Kentucky. Now, on Saturday, the 6’2”, 320-lb defensive lineman from Manchester will be suiting up in the blue and white for the final time at home. I’ve been a fan of the Wildcats for over half a century and I can’t remember any player who has been more of a joy to be around. Jacob’s positive attitude, infectious smile, and ever-present faith serve as an inspiration to all. We’re all going to miss #36 on the football field, but as you’ll see, he’s sticking around to make the rest of the world a heck of a whole lot better place for all of us.
Q: What are some of your thoughts as you get ready to wear this uniform for maybe the next to the last time?
Jacob Hyde: They always say time flies by when you’re having fun. I’ve had a blast here. I loved every bit of what has gone here–the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. I’ve loved it all, but five years we think is a long time until that day comes. It’s hard. It’ll be an emotional day.
Q: What would you say is the biggest difference between Jacob Hyde now and the freshman Jacob Hyde?
Jacob Hyde: I’ve grown up a lot mentally. Academically, I never thought I would leave the University of Kentucky with a Masters degree. I’ll graduate with my Masters in May, so that’s a blessing. Just putting things into perspective. That’s the biggest thing that’s come along for me.
Q: You mentioned highs and lows. You’ve had a lot of highs. As you rewind that playbook of your career, what are some of the highs that really stand out to you?
Jacob Hyde: Probably one of the first times I set foot on the field which was against UT-Martin my freshman year. And then…I’ll give you three. That and then playing fullback down in South Carolina. That was awesome three seasons ago. And that stop against Louisville last year. That was pretty awesome.
Q: So, are you ready for another one of those this year?
Jacob Hyde: Oh yeah. If that’s what the Good Lord has in his will, that’s what will happen.
Q: You talked about the highs. You’ve also had some adversity. You’ve essentially gone through two head coaches and multiple defensive coordinators. How have you been able to keep such a level head through all that change?
Jacob Hyde: Two head coaches, two defensive coordinators, and a D-Line coach. Just the good man above. I personally couldn’t have done it myself without him. Just got to stick to that. You have to get used to change. Change can’t freak you out in college football. That’s when things really start going south. That’s another thing I had to learn.
Q: When I talk to your teammates, they always mention your leadership and your positive attitude. Where do some of those character attributes come from?
Jacob Hyde: I always look at it like what can I bring to the table. If I’m always negative and I’m pissed off the whole time, what am I bringing to the table with that? And how can I help my team win at the end of the day, even if I’m playing or not playing. I can uplift guys, make sure guys know what they’re doing going into the game. Help guys as they need it. Just be there with open arms. I don’t want people to see me as just a teammate. I want people to see me as a friend off the field. That’s the big thing with me—I try to build relationships with guys off the field too. So, if they ever need me, hey I’m here.
Q: You mentioned academics earlier. I know that’s so important to you. You mentioned your degree in social work. You’re in graduate school now. What are your plans afterward? I know you’ve said in the past that you’d like to do some counseling. You like working with kids. What do you see for you in the future.
Jacob Hyde: I am open to anything. But if I had to work in my field with my degree—which I’m not saying I don’t want to—I’m just saying if something else were to come along, who knows? Like I said, we never know what the Good Lord might place in front of us. But I’d like to be a school guidance counselor and coach high school football.
Q: So maybe you could combine both your football and your social work careers?
Jacob Hyde: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Q: What advice would you give to someone coming up through the ranks?
Jacob Hyde: Let’s be honest. There’s not much positivity that comes out of the mountains. My biggest thing is give them something to look up to. Give them something to look forward to. They can do it. If I made it out, you can make it out also.
Q: Any plans to go back (to Manchester)?
Jacob Hyde: If that’s where the Good Lord takes me, that’s where I’ll go. I’m not picky or choosy. It’s wherever the job opportunity opens, then that’s where the Lord leads me.
Q: When you think about your journey as a kid when you first started playing football, all the way through high school and now your college career, what’s it been like for you?
Jacob Hyde: All my home kids will know this. All my Kentucky kids will know this. We all grow up, especially if you play football, we all grow up throwing the football in the backyard to ourselves, catching it, Touchdown Kentucky! Every kid has done that if you’re from the state. And actually getting to live it out, first coming in as a freshman and starting—I started as a true freshman. And being blessed to be able to come here and play, it will be memories I will keep for the rest of my life. It’s hard to put into words. I’ve enjoyed my time here.
Statistically, I wasn’t supposed to make it. From where I’m from, from what I’ve been through—from a single parent home—I wasn’t supposed to make it to where I’m at today. I’ve proven a lot of people wrong and I’ve also proven to people that always believed in me that I could do it. It’s going to be tough I can tell. I’ve been playing this game for 14-15 years now and the Lord blessed me enough to come and fulfill my childhood dream to play for the University of Kentucky which is awesome. Even if I play one snap to a thousand snaps, I was just lucky enough to be one of the guys in the class of 2013 that received a scholarship from the University of Kentucky. I’ve loved every bit of it. It will be a bittersweet moment on Saturday. It is what it is. We all come to the point in our lives where we start a new chapter and this chapter in my life is about to close.
Q: What do you want to see as your legacy here at Kentucky? What do you want to leave the people here with?
Jacob Hyde: I want to leave people with knowing that I was just a good genuine guy. I’m a hard-working kid who left it all out there. You’ve got to represent for the home team always. I don’t want people to just know me as a football player. That’s the biggest thing. Football is short term for some of us. My time is coming to a screeching halt here soon. We have to build character outside of football. I want people to know me not just as a football player but as a person. I love people. I love children. That’s my thing. Like right now, I intern at a school and the majority of kids don’t even know that I play football. I intern with the school guidance counselors and out of 1077 kids, maybe 25 to 50 kids max know that I play football.
Q: I never want to leave without giving you a chance to give a shout out to the people of Manchester and Clay County. What would you like to say to them? Any parting greetings or Thanksgiving blessings you want to give to them?
Jacob Hyde: There’s not going to be any partings. Home is always going to be home even if I do live there or if I go. I love you guys. Happy Thanksgiving. God Bless. And I want to thank you guys for always supporting me through whatever. Being so awesome and supportive through it all. I love you guys and thank you for always welcoming me with open arms.
John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you’re a Big Blue UK fan, you can read more of his writing at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.