LEXINGTON, Ky. – Former University of Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman has been named Kentucky’s 40th annual sports figure of the year, Lexington announced today Herald-Leader. He was named the winner after a vote of 163 current and former Commonwealth media members, receiving 76 first-place votes. Her margin of 435 points on second-place voting, Rhyne Howard, the star of British women’s basketball, was the largest in the past four years.
In the summer of 2018, Schlarman was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. Despite the diagnosis, he continued to frame countless treatments and the horrific side effects of those treatments. He did not miss a game (and rarely missed a practice) until October 24, 2020 in Missouri. His last appearance on the sidelines was on October 17 in Tennessee, in the UK’s first victory in Knoxville since 1984. Schlarman died three weeks later, on November 12, 2020.
“The Great American was a warrior and we really miss him,” head coach Mark Stoops said on his social media last week. “Everything he did was FOR THE TEAM. There is no better contender for Sports Figure of the Year than John Schlarman. “
Schlarman was an original member of the Stoops staff in 2013, working tirelessly to help rebuild a football program he loved very much. Perfectly suited to Stoops’ blue-collar approach, Schlarman’s offensive line, affectionately known as the ‘Big Blue Wall’, played a key role in the process which culminated with five consecutive bowl appearances of 2016- 20. In 2018, the UK went 10-3, the school’s first 10-game winning season in 41 years, topped with a victory over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. The UK followed with a victory over Virginia Tech in the 2019 Belk Bowl and a victory over No.23 NC State in the 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
Over the past five seasons, Kentucky have broken numerous school records, including one-season records for most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns, and most rushing yards per attempt. In 2016, 19 and 20, Schlarman Cats were semi-finalists for the Joe Moore Award for the country’s best offensive line.
Individually, guards Logan Stenberg and Bunchy Stallings, tackle Darian Kinnard and center Drake Jackson took All-America honors under Schlarman. Stenberg, Stallings, center Jon Toth and tackle Landon Young received All-Southeastern Conference honors. Linemen helped pave the way for a 1,000-yard runner in each of the 2016-19 seasons, Stanley “Boom” Williams, Benny Snell Jr. and Lynn Bowden Jr. Snell hit the 1,000-yard mark three times and left the UK as the school’s biggest rusher.
In 2020, play a 10-game SEC opponent schedule plus the Gator Bowl, the Wildcats placed third in the league rushing to 196.2 yards per game and Kentucky’s offensive line paved the way for top runner Chris Rodriguez Jr. averaging 6.6 yards per carry, which led the SEC and placed 17th nationally. Play in just nine games, he totaled 785 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, a team-high.
Schlarman is the third consecutive sports figure of the year for British football. Defensive end Josh Allen was named the winner in 2018 and Bowden, a quarterback / wide receiver / kick returner, took home the award in 2019.
Schlarman was also honored with the Broyles Prize, which recognizes the best assistant coach in college football. Schlarman received a Lifetime Achievement Award “for his dedication to inspiring excellence in athletics through training.”
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