Earlier this week, I begrudgingly woke up to the smell of what appeared to be burnt paper or rubber and the sight of no less than two hundred used “Pop It” wrappers scattered throughout my driveway which could only mean one thing as an American: the 4th of July had come and gone again. As a UofL sports fan, it also serves as an annual reminder that summer is well into full swing and the amount of story lines for us as Card fans to discuss are limited…..unless of course you just have a fetish for reminiscing about stories that involve strippers and such.
In all seriousness, the men’s basketball program is at the very least never short on offering its loyal fans plenty to converse about. I don’t think many would argue about point. But my focus over the past several weeks hasn’t been locked in on Coach Pitino & crew or even the monster that Bobby Petrino & his unheralded staff continue to build on and off the gridiron. Instead, my sports focal point as of late has rested with the Louisville Baseball team and its continued remarkable climb into the ranks of one of college baseball’s most dangerous and respected programs.
With that, this article isn’t, however, going to hone in on the outcome of the College World Series or whether or not this team met expectations or simply came up short (for the record, I think they slightly overachieved). Alternatively, my hope is to tap into a very popular fan debate that one will hear from time to time while at the same time paying homage to arguably the greatest student athlete to ever represent the University of Louisville.
First, let’s focus on the aforementioned debate itself. If someone is brave enough to tell me that at some point in his/her lifetime of being a sports fanatic, regardless of which college or pro sports team(s) that person pulls for, that they’ve never made their case for the “Mount Rushmore” of a particular team, franchise or program then I’m sorry, they’re lying.
The art of choosing which individuals that would be so fortunate to be one of the four faces on that historic mountain top to eternally represent one’s team has been around for decades. I, myself, have shared in this debate many times as it relates to not only UofL Sports in general but particularly basketball and football. It’s fun but also mind numbing. After hours of thought one typically comes to the realization that it’s simply damn near impossible to just pick four representatives. And then along comes the twist to this infamous debate: do we pick and choose from athletes only or do we also include coaches and such? But enough about defining the debate any further, I’m certain those reading understand the idea.
Allow me to shift my focus now to the most decorated yet arguably most unheralded student athlete to ever wear Cardinal red: yep, the unassuming , reserved and simply sensation Brendan McKay. Look, I could start jotting down all the awards this stud has rung up during his time as a key cog for the Louisville 9 over the past 3 years. Problem is, I’d be writing for a whole extra day.
McKay’s individual awards list is longer than the Pan American Highway. And yet, his undeniable team contributions as both an offensive juggernaut and a pitching phenom are what truly put him in a category by himself. He is and likely always will be the face of Louisville Baseball. So, with that being said, let’s have our own fun little debate.
Disclaimer: I don’t put coaches on my Mount Rushmore’s. As much as I love Denny Crum, respect Howard Schnellenberger and acknowledge the accolades of guys like Rick Pitino & Jeff Walz, I just keep my lists to athletes. Shoot me.
For the sake of time I won’t be giving a multitude of reasons as to why each of my Rushmore picks have been chosen. I’m positive that 99% of my readers while perhaps not being in total agreement with my choices will at least understand the reasoning behind it. As a result, I’ll get right to my UofL student athlete Mount Rushmore picks which consists of the following……..
1. Darrell Griffith
2. Johnny Unitas
3. Angel McCoughtry
4. Brendan McKay
If you didn’t see the McKay pick coming then shame on you. And if you disagree, then you’re just wrong.
Of course, I’m only kidding. But in all seriousness, when I think back to my days as a student at UofL it puts Louisville Baseball in perspective really quickly. I can vividly remember working the scoreboard for the Sports Information Department under the tutelage of who I believe to be the best at his craft, PA announcer Sean Moth. At that time (late 90’s) games were still being played at the eye sore that is known as old Cardinal Stadium. I can remember home games where there were easily more players than fans. I can recall worrying if the area where I kept the controls was going to collapse and fall to the ground. In comparing the program of then to now, it’s beyond apples to oranges. And while I completely respect the players and coaches of that era, Louisville Baseball truly arrived and came of age with the hiring of Dan McDonnell and will forever be on the map because of the play of Brendan Mckay.
Baseball isn’t sexy or exhilarating and it sure isn’t a cash cow for UofL. For anyone who doesn’t like the sport, I get it. I’m a little biased because I grew up playing it through high school and have since coached my son. But regardless if I ever fielded a ground ball or conducted a batting practice session, there is no denying in my mind that McKay deserves his spot on the mountain. Aside from his greatness on the field, he appears to be every bit as impressive as a teammate, student and person. If you need validation, look no further than then video where Mckay hears his name called by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the recent MLB Draft. His reaction with his parents on each side was one of the most humble I have ever witnessed. It made me proud to be a Louisville Baseball fan and more importantly an alum.
There have been a slew of terrific baseball players come through the Cardinal program and make no bones about it there will continue to be others. But, there will never be another Brendan McKay……a guy who could hit 4 round trippers in one game and then jog out to the hill and throw a shutout the next. He’s not only the reigning Golden Spikes Award Winner (the best player in college baseball) but he’s the highest drafted UofL Baseball player in school history and you can rest assured that other talented high school baseball players will venture to UofL to try to emulate his success. As a result, the program wins, the fans win and McKay cements himself on my personal Mount Rushmore.