In five years Curci has done what supposedly couldn't be done—return Kentucky football to the glory it enjoyed under Bear Bryant in the early 1950s. With the help of Kentucky University President Dr. Otis Singletary, who believes strongly in intercollegiate athletics, and the five-year-old Commonwealth Stadium, Curci found he had what it took to recruit blue-chip players. It didn't come easy. Still admits that when Curci got in touch with him, he thought he was going to be offered a scholarship to play basketball.
To get Still and Ramsey, Curci had to outmaneuver both basketball and football recruiters. Playing both sports at Camden High, they had led the football team to an unbeaten season their senior year, and the basketball team to a state championship. Curci was able to beat out hundreds of other schools mostly because he had an "in" with Andy Hinson, the coach at Camden.
While Curci took a couple of years to decide whether to play Ramsey at quarterback or tight end, he installed Still in the starting lineup as a freshman and began to build for the future around him. Like Ramsey, Still is the quiet, soft-spoken type who leads by example, and the pro scouts love his size and quickness. Against LSU, Still scooped up a blocked field-goal attempt and then outraced a defensive back to score a touchdown. Still has also impressed no less a football authority than Prince Charles, who met him during halftime of the Kentucky-Georgia game while on his recent state visit. "My word," said the prince, gazing upward, "you're a big one, aren't you?"
As big and as good as he is, Still is only part of what Wildcat Rover Dallas Owens calls the "Hijackers Anonymous," because they have caused 25 turnovers despite rarely being certain who will be playing on a given Saturday. By the third game, star Linebacker Jim Kovach and two tackles had been lost for the season with injuries, so Curci installed 5'11", 227-pound reserve Richard Jaffee at nose guard, moved Jerry Blanton to tackle and held his breath. The results have been devastating. Owens intercepted two passes to break open the Penn State game. Linebacker Mike Martin blocked a punt to start the avalanche at Georgia. The defense held Vandy to an average of 14 inches—that's inches—every carry. And so it goes.
"The defense is the key for us," says Curci. "Our kids are so close and they're so quick and when somebody gets hurt, somebody else moves in and takes over. To be honest with you, I'm amazed."
With no bowl to anticipate, Kentucky's goal is a 10-1 record (the loss was to Baylor in the second game of the season) and bragging rights to the SEC title. To do that the Wildcats must win at Florida this week, then beat hated Tennessee at home. Both those teams might be interested in some rather startling comments made by Ramsey after the Vandy game.
"I think we're one of the best teams in the country," he said, "but I don't know how good we are. I don't think we've played our best game yet."