Big Blue Nation was brought to its knees Wednesday with the loss of former Wildcat and beloved Kentuckian Jared Lorenzen.
From his beginning at Fort Thomas Highlands, Lorenzen’s electric play and contagious personality was a hit to the people of Kentucky and that translated to instant fandom when he attended the University of Kentucky and then continued his career in the NFL and other ventures.
Former Hopkinsville standout Artose Pinner was a teammate of Lorenzen’s at Kentucky and said he’ll remember his friend fondly.
Pinner’s first reaction when he heard of Lorenzen’s death was how young he was at just 38.
His next thought and the thought that he’ll carry with him is the thing he’ll remember the most.
“I was sitting here trying to think earlier, I didn’t ever see this guy mad,” he said. “He was probably one of the most upbeat people I know. I was talking to a couple of friends and I said ‘have you ever recalled him being mad?’ Even in the huddle during games in college, I just remember this guy had the most laid-back personality I’ve ever seen in my life. He just never knew a stranger, and he was always a good person.”
Lorenzen’s size was one of his trademarks and his several nicknames came with the territory.
“The Pillsbury Throwboy,” “Hefty Lefty” and “The Round Mound of Touchdown” are just a few, but Pinner said Lorenzen knew what he was.
“He embraced his size,” he said. “Nobody could body shame him because he embraced that. He didn’t feel bad about anything you’d say.”
It’s this that helped Lorenzen relate to younger players.
“He inspired a lot of young players where they weren’t pigeonholed anymore,” he said. “When you’re playing little league football and you’re a heavy kid, you’re automatically going on the offensive line. There were kids after seeing him after they were like ‘I’m not on the offensive line, I’m a quarterback.’ They believed they could be a quarterback because of him. He was one of the most nimble, athletic guys I knew that big.”
During his freshman year, Lorenzen beat out Dusty Bonner for the Wildcats quarterback spot.
It was then that the Lorenzen era had started.
Pinner said, at times, Lorenzen rubbed people the wrong way, but that’s just because they hadn’t learned what type of person he was yet.
“Jared was a different type of person,” he said. “He was a great football player, but he didn’t come across as that guy that eats and sleeps football. I think some people may have gotten offended initially because when you’re a quarterback, you’re supposed to eat and sleep football …
“He wasn’t going to let anything define him because he had a great idea of who he was a long time ago. With him, it was one of those things where he was so laid-back where if you were that football guy that eats and sleep football, you would think he didn’t take the game serious, but he did.”
Pinner said Lorenzen was always a glass-half-full kind of guy.
It wasn’t until the former Tigers’ final year at Kentucky that he finally started to understand the impact Lorenzen had on those around him.
“Especially my senior year, when I really started to get to know him and see how he commanded the huddle and how he approached football,” he said. “I started to get a better understanding on him as a person and as an athlete. I embraced that. It was awesome to see a person that wasn’t going to be defined by his weight or somebody was going to say this is what position you can’t play because of this.
“As soon as those lights came on and it was time to play, he just did things that you only see in video games.”
Pinner said one area of Lorenzen’s game that was better than most was his arm strength.
He remembers a scenario during his time in Detroit during practice where he referenced Lorenzen.
“I was in Detroit and Joey Harrington was our quarterback,” he said. “Our backup quarterback was Mike McMahon. I was telling them ‘you guys can’t throw like Jared. Nobody can throw as hard as he can.’ What they did, we were sitting on the sideline before practice started and so they started one hopping, throwing as hard as they could toward me for me to catch the ball and I’m laughing and catching the ball that both of them were throwing. I said ‘alright guys, maybe if you put both of your arm strength together you can match Jared Lorenzen.’ They thought it was the funniest thing. Coach (Steve) Mariucci was there watching this thing go on and they were just shocked at how hard Mike McMahon and Joey Harrington were trying to throw the ball. I’m just catching them like this is nothing.”
Pinner said he wasn’t surprised when he saw Lorenzen continue to rise through the ranks and even when he won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.
“He had all the tools to be a good quarterback,” he said. “I knew he could play in the NFL just because he played very well in the SEC. With the NFL, think about guys like Kyler Murray or even way back with Doug Flutie, they always have a prototype quarterback that they want you to fit. He didn’t fit that mold, but there was no intangible that didn’t exist. He had a big arm, he was nimble, he could move. You see this guy run outside the pocket. If he was slim, he would have been easily drafted at least mid-round.”
There’s one story Pinner said he’ll always remember. and it happened in a place Lorenzen was cheered on the most.
During a game against South Carolina at UK, Pinner said they were trailing late in the game when his number was called.
“I was just trying to make a play,” he said. “Jared throws me the ball in the flat. There were like three South Carolina guys around me. I was like ‘man, I’m not going to make this play.’ Unscripted, I threw the ball back to Jared … I think he caught it. I’m almost certain he caught it. He tried to take off running, and I run back to the sideline, and the coaches were like ‘What the h*** were you doing?’ I said I was just trying to make a play.”
While the coaches were upset, anger never came across the face of Lorenzen in that moment.
“Jared looked at me and was like ‘well that was different,’” he said. “He’s not a yeller. He builds you up, he lifts you up.”
Pinner said he and Lorenzen were cut from the same cloth, as they both played for the state they called home.
He said that’s the thing Lorenzen loved being a part of more than anything else.
“The world today has definitely lost a special guy,” he said. “He meant a lot to UK, just because he was a Kentucky guy. That was something he and I always took personal. Understanding the responsibility of being a kid from Kentucky playing at the University of Kentucky. It’s a lot more weight. It’s a lot more expectations and a lot more weight on you.
“He embraced that role and the way he embraced it, that’s one thing we had in common. We wanted to take on that role of being the guys at the University of Kentucky and making plays for our home state.”