Barrier-Breaking Pioneers Inspire Cats in Big Win

UK Athletics Kentucky’s 0-2 start is a memory, but by no means a distant one for many.The negativity that came with it still buzzes around the program, but that’s not stopping Mark Stoops.”You can’t change the past, but we can certainly change our future and push forward,” Stoops said.Ironically, the springboard to that future may have been the bravery of four men who played for Kentucky five decades ago.Thursday night – five days removed from UK’s first win of the season – the Wildcats attended a special ceremony as a team just outside their new practice facility. A statue honoring the four men who broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference – Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg – was unveiled 49 years after Northington made his debut in a league game.The experience, if you ask Stoops, played no small part as UK won its second game in a row, 17-10 over South Carolina, Saturday night in Commonwealth Stadium.”I think that was very important for us, the courage of those guys and what they have done,” Stoops said. “Knowing the difference between right and wrong and that those guys really made a stand, a difference and had an impact on a lot of people’s lives. They taught others at that time and are still teaching today.”Count the Cats among their pupils.On Thursday, UK’s practice was ending just as the three men and Page’s brother, Melvin, were getting ready for their big evening. Hackett – the first African-American captain in any sport in SEC history – took a moment to address the team as he has multiple times in recent years.His words resonated.”I think that was very important for us, the courage of those guys and what they have done,” …

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