Hefty lefty. Pillsbury Throw Boy. Lord of the Ring Dings. When it
comes to motivating Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen to shed
some weight, these oft-heard taunts are no more effective than
the countless diets he has tried over his 21 years. "I've heard
it all--from opposing fans, reporters, even teammates," says the
junior, who at 6'4" and just under 300 pounds is thought to be
the heaviest starting quarterback in Division I-A history. "The
thing is, I was 13 pounds, three ounces coming into this world.
I've always been big, and people just need to get used to it."
Since Lorenzen signed with the Wildcats out of Highlands High in
Fort Thomas, Ky., where he led the football team to a Triple A
championship and a state-record 801 points as a 270-pound senior,
Kentucky's coaches have tried in vain to recast their pudgy,
baby-faced starter into the image of a prototype quarterback.
University nutritionists were summoned and thrice-daily running
drills instituted, but strength coach Marc Hill knew he was
losing ground last year when one of Lorenzen's roommates reported
that the quarterback disappeared during dinner hour--the same time
various pantry items that were neither green nor leafy also
turned up missing.
Finally the coaches decided early this summer to scale back the
battle of the bulge. "We pushed his butt before the 2001 season,
and he came out kind of flat in the first game," says Hill.
"Jared's naturally big-boned--line him up with the offensive
linemen, and they all look the same below the knee. We'd rather
have him carry an extra 10 pounds and be energized than get fit
and be lethargic."
After Kentucky's 2-9 season in 2001, during which his sluggish
start temporarily cost him his starting position, Lorenzen is
more than pulling his weight this year. After last Saturday's
16-12 loss to South Carolina, the Wildcats were 4-2, and the
quarterback's precision passing has figured largely in the
surprising start. Lorenzen leads the SEC in TD passes (15), is
second in passer rating (145.5) and is third in completion
percentage (60.2%). Teammates say he has regained the authority
in the huddle that he displayed in 2000, when he set six NCAA
freshman passing records.
While it would be natural for a coach to worry about the stamina
of a quarterback who outweighs two of his offensive linemen and
is a calzone from surpassing a third, Lorenzen's bulk has worked
to his advantage this season. His size allows him to shake
tackles and throw with power, yet he continues to confound
opponents with his scrambling ability. "Jared's always been able
to put on a show with his feet," says Lorenzen's high school
coach, Dale Mueller. Even in the 41-34 loss to heavily favored
Florida on Sept. 28--a game in which he rallied the Wildcats from
a 19-0 halftime deficit only to throw an interception that sealed
their fate--Lorenzen showed impressive quickness with a nine-yard
scamper in the first quarter and grit with a 39-yard toss to
Aaron Boone that gave Kentucky the lead late in the third. "I
enjoy watching him play," says Florida quarterback Rex Grossman.
"He makes things happen, he throws the ball hard, and [Kentucky]
throws the ball a lot."
Teammates attribute Lorenzen's success to the fact that coaches
have laid off on the boot-camp tactics. "Jared's just a
greasy-food guy," says senior tailback Artose Pinner, a Tae Bo
enthusiast and self-professed salad person who long ago gave up
trying to reform his teammate. "He's much looser on the field
this year, and when Jared's loose, he plays better. He's as happy
as I've ever seen him."
Lately the only weight on Lorenzen's mind has been the 8 1/2-pound
girl that longtime girlfriend Tamara Tabar delivered in July. The
arrival of Taylar, the couple's first child, has made Lorenzen
mindful of his ability to be a role model to young athletes
trying to maintain their proper weight. He recalls a moment after
last year's victory over Georgia when a Bulldogs player
approached Lorenzen to talk about his own young, overweight son.
"He wanted to thank me for showing his kid that he didn't have to
play offensive lineman," says Lorenzen. "If I can inspire little
big kids to play quarterback, that's an awesome thing."
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BOB ROSATO (2) BIG MAN ON CAMPUS A diet-free Lorenzen has his game in shape and the Wildcats off to a 4-2 start.
Here are the NCAA freshman records that Jared Lorenzen set in
Total yards 3,827
Passing yards 3,687
Pass attempts 559
Pass completions 321
Total offensive plays 635
Offensive plays per game 57.7