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SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Snell Running His Way Into UK Football History

Let me set you up a picture.

I'm sitting in the comfort of my living room / control room watching a Kentucky football game three years ago. Who the Cats were playing wasn’t important because I'm a Kentucky Wildcat fan and I’ve sat through the good, the bad, and the ugly that is Kentucky football. Needless to say, the opponent wasn’t important.

Anyway, there I sat and the Cats were doing pretty well with their speed back at the time Stanley “Boom” Williams. Williams was a tremendous back in the Blue and White. Great speed and vision on the field were his calling cards. Nothing but respect here.

But alas, little speed backs sometimes have a hard time holding up under the strain of SEC defenses and a 12-game schedule. As a change of pace, Kentucky went to a capable back named Jojo Kemp. Again, though, not a power back. Kemp eventually wears down. Kentucky goes down the depth chart to its third-string tailback, a three-star freshman from Westerville, Ohio named...Benny Snell Jr. (pictured)

It was apparent after the first couple of Snell carries that this young back was not a scat back, not a change of pace back, and definitely not going to be a reserve very long. Snell ran with passion. Snell ran with strength. Snell ran with power.

Kentucky had its power back to carry the mail. Benny Snell Jr.

For the last three years, Snell has been nothing short of a sensation. The 5-11, 223-pound bowling ball has turned the hopes of BBN on its ear. Snell has given that one thing we as Wildcat fans have searched many years for: hope. Finally it seems like Wildcat football is turning the corner to relevancy in an always loaded SEC.

To consider Snell’s impact on the Wildcat program is to consider his numbers and production. They’re very impressive to say the least:

  • Snell has 2,799 yards rushing (5th all-time).

  • Snell has 35 touchdowns, two shy of Randall Cobb’s school record.

  • Since Snell has came to Lexington, the Cats are 17-12 with back-to-back bowl appearances after being 4-20 the previous two seasons.

This season UK has opened the season 3-0 for the second straight year. Coach Mark Stoops and staff also gained their program’s signature win in defeating Florida 27-16 in Gainesville, snapping a 31-game losing streak.

Snell has given Kentucky an edge as well. No longer are the Cats happy with just being competitive and in ball games for awhile until succumbing to another team. The Wildcats are coming to win, and they are led by Snell.

Snell set the tone at SEC Media Days by announcing to the conference and the world that he's the best running back in the SEC and he wasn’t from Tuscaloosa, Columbus, or Athens. He was in Lexington, and his name is Benny Snell Jr. Heck, the young man referred to himself in the third person during the interview. Classic.

You see, UK needs that. The program needs a player whose spirit, attitude, and work ethic can help to lead the Wildcats out of the college football netherworld and to college football relevance. Kentucky has for too long been the weakling on the beach getting sand kicked in its collective faces. No more.

Kentucky has a new identity now. They are exhibiting a power running game led by Snell and powered by a road grader offensive line. Power is the SEC byword when it comes to football. Kentucky has it thanks to its very own power back, Benny Snell Jr.

Shane Shackleford is a sportswriter based in Speedwell, Tenn. You can contact him via email at, Facebook, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.

Photo of Snell by Ron Morrow

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