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June 14, 2012

Players show off updated lobby at Nutter

The new-look Nutter Training Facility contains constant reminders of Kentucky football's past, present and future.

The football complex's main hallways are now covered with more vibrant pictures, plaques and boards for the team.

"You come in here and it's like, 'OK, Kentucky,'" senior wide receiver La'Rod King said as he started a tour of the facility in the front lobby. "This is what we represent across our jerseys. This is what we stand for."

There are plenty of images to serve that purpose. Hanging above the front and back entrances are Operation: Win signs. Four spots in the main hallway are reserved for nearly life-sized pictures of top performers from each week's game.

There's a gallery of every former Wildcat now playing in the NFL and plaques from every team that made it to a bowl game.

Further down is a collage of big moments in Kentucky football history - the win against LSU in 2007, the victory over Tennessee last season - and right before the weight room is a "Beat Louisville" wall.

"Every part of this facility has a different story to tell," senior offensive lineman Matt Smith said.

The facelift cost $158,000, took a year to design and was installed in two weeks. The coaching staff provided the input for how it wanted the finished product to look.

To the players, it came as a surprise. They got their first look at it when they returned to campus for team meetings in the summer.

"It just blew us away," Smith said. "I was in here taking pictures left and right of everything and going home to show my family. It was awesome."

In the 15-minute tour, King and Smith proudly pointed out all the new features of the remodeling, which Smith said serves a variety of purposes.

It provides motivation for a team looking to improve on a 5-7 season - there's plenty of space to add to the board of bowl-game teams, Smith pointed out - and reminds players both young and old what can be accomplished at Kentucky and beyond.

"It's nice to walk by and see this," Smith said, standing in front of photos of former players in the NFL. "This right here is what everybody is trying to get to, that next level."

The renovated facility also appeals to players who are yet to be Wildcats. Smith said the "best part" of the renovation is that it gives UK the chance to recruit players.

Part of competing in the Southeastern Conference, Smith said, is having attractive facilities, and the new-look Nutter helps accomplish that goal.

"It's really helping with recruiting," Smith said. "We've got a lot of good young guys that have come in here saying they love the way everything's laid out, they love the stadium and all that stuff that's been going on here. This is just going to add to it."

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