Dennis made steady progress during the fall, and before the Wildcats' finale at Tennessee, Curry told him he would be put on the punt-coverage team starting with the Volunteers' second punt. Kentucky was nearing the end of a horrific season, and with the nation's second-worst rushing defense, the Wildcats rarely forced opponents to punt. In this game, an eventual 52-0 rout by Tennessee that would bring Kentucky's record to 1-10, the Volunteers did not prepare to make their second punt until just six minutes were left.
Dennis sprinted out onto the turf of Neyland Stadium, his helmet shielding his past. Though he had never been ashamed of his appearance, this was the scene he always hoped for. "I wanted people to see me as one of those players with a Kentucky helmet on," he says. "Not special or different from anyone else, just someone who's out there for the same reason as the rest of the players."
Dennis threw a couple of blocks, but Tennessee would not punt again, so his season ended on the same uneventful play on which it began. That didn't bother him. What did gnaw at him was the possible perception that he was inserted in the game out of sympathy. "Because we were getting blown out," he says, "it looked like they were just throwing me in there."
This season should be different for Dennis, who has two years of eligibility left. It certainly should be better than last year, when a reporter from a newspaper in Tennessee asked him to compare his plight with that of Rudy, Notre Dame's most famous—and infamous—walk-on. The mild-mannered Dennis didn't like the question. "There are really no similarities," he says. "Rudy was obviously a scrub, but I do have minimal talent."
Minimal talent? On the football field, maybe. But in every other way, this kid's a star. "You can't walk in a room or on a field and look at Harold Dennis without being inspired," Curry says. "Just by his presence, he has lifted all of us."