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July 15, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Joker Phillips didn't shy away from coaching freshmen in 2011. But the players he turned his attention to on Sunday were young even by his standards.
Phillips wrapped up the 2012 Gameday Ready Tour on Sunday, spending the afternoon in Shawnee Park. The tour had previously stopped in Franklin, West Liberty and Pikeville.
"This is part of what we call Operation: Win," Phillips said. "It's winning in the community. The community is not just Lexington, it's the whole Big Blue Nation. It's the whole state of Kentucky. We want to come back here to show because of the support these people have given us, we want to show our appreciation for it."
The camps were aimed at youths from the age of 7 and up, with an emphasis on family entertainment. Besides the normal football activities, there were inflatable slides and other games for kids to play.
It wasn't all fun, though. Phillips' trip to West Liberty, a small town in Eastern Kentucky that was rocked by tornadoes in March, was sobering for the coach.
"That one was a little more emotional, driving into town, seeing the effects of the tornadoes in March," Phillips said. "That was more emotional for myself and the guys that were with me. But they're all the same. The kids get excited when they see big air balloons and blow-up slides and when they can get a T-shirt and bag. That's all the same."
In less than three weeks, he'll turn his attention to coaching a different group of youngsters. The Wildcats open fall camp on Aug. 3, and there could be several freshmen in the mix for playing time again when the Wildcats open the season on Sept. 2 at Louisville.
"I'm real excited for two weeks from now," Phillips said. "I'm excited to see which freshmen can help us. Every year, you want to find out as quick as you possibly can and make sure we've got them in the right position to help us."