Johnny U takes a sabbatical, moves to secure location

Johnny U has left his perch at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Johnny Unitas no longer stands guard over the North end zone at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. In his absence is a stub of the concrete statue honoring the former University of Louisville great.

The statue has been moved and won’t be back until the expansion is complete in 2018.

That was the word from JCPS Stadium Manager Michael Ortman who is putting a padlock on Gate 9 a couple of minutes after the observer leaves the stadium on Tuesday morning.

“Where’s Johnny U?” the observer asks.

“I can’t say,” says Ortman. “The statue has been moved to another location where it will be safe and secure.”

“What about the bricks with the donors’ names on them?”

Stadium Manager Michael Ortman.

“They have been palletized,” replies Ortman. “and they are in safekeeping as well.”

“You sure you can’t tell us where Johnny U is being stored?”

“No way,” says Ortman, wondering who the character is asking all the questions. “The statue is in a safe location and I’m not saying anything about the whereabouts.”

As Vice President Tom Jurich promised, the stadium expansion began two days after the final game of the 2016 season. Work is clearly visible in both the north end zone and north of the Howard Schnellenberger football complex. Lots of preparation work for new utilities is under way in both areas. 

The shell of the new end zone structure is expected to be in place during the 2017 football season, along with framework of construction of the new football training facility. 

As for when and where Johnny U will be stationed when he returns , Ortman is equally mum.

“We’ll see,” he says.

Super Heisman Man: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson

Hey, Lamar Jackson.

There. Did it. Broke out of the gate early, made America take notice, put University of Louisville football squarely in the national spotlight. Nailed down honor after coveted honor, separated yourself as America’s  best college football player in 2016.

No doubt, not even close.

Play after play, on the ground, through the air, touchdown after touchdown, week after week. Setting new standards for athleticism, so often, so consistently. Considered his norm notching three, four or five touchdowns game after game.

Lamar Jackson winner of the Heisman Trophy winner for the 2016 college football season.  Racking up 3,390 passing yards, 1,538 rushing yards, with an astonishing 4,928 yards and 51 touchdowns. Leading UofL to a 9-3 won-lost record.

Louisville has had many great football players. Among them Johnny Unitas, Lenny Lyles, Deion Branch, Brian Brohm, Elvis Dumervil, Howard Stevens, Walter Peacock … So many names on the flight deck at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

But only one of them ever considered a serious contender for football’s most prestigious award — the Heisman trophy destined to stand alongside the Walter Camp and Maxwell Player of the Year awards on the Jackson family trophy wall.

Lamar Jackson bringing unprecedented attention to University of Louisville football, rewarding the faithful for long-standing loyalty. One of the most outstanding performances in the history of any sport.

Lamar Jackson himself, his fans, his detractors, his teammates, the opposition — everyone knowing he could have done much better. God willing, absorbing the lessons, getting better, setting even higher standards next year.

Hopefully blowing the doors off the hinges next season, having only just begun.

Photos courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton.

Big guys get their turn for Louisville basketball

UofL’s Jaylen Johnson and Mangok Mathiang create a barricade for Mike Rodriguez of Southern Illinois (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The big guys were having their way for the University of Louisville basketball team on Wednesday, dominating offensively for a change, relegating the guards to support roles in UofL’s 74-51 win over Southern Illinois University.

Matz Stockman tells SIU’s Armon Fletcher to get that ball out of here (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Playing in some rarified air at the KFC Yum! Center, with Magok Mathiang actually scoring UofL’s first seven points while SIU was still searching for its first basket. Probably the best overall performance of his career, Mathiang leading his team in scoring with 15 points for the night.

Then there were Deng Adel and Jaylen Johnson, adding 12 and nine points, 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively. Matz Stockman getting in on the act with seven points, a couple of rebounds, a block and a steal.

The Louisville guards having an off night, according to Coach Rick Pitino, because they weren’t moving the ball, not making passes. “It was obvious to me that they thought they had the game under control and were looking for shots,” he said. 

Guards Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider, Tony Hicks, David Levitch and Ryan McMahon contributing 20 points collectively. “The points will come when they enjoy passing as much as they enjoy taking shots,” added Pitino.

Lamar Jackson’s greatness differs from another Louisville legend

There probably has never been a more humble candidate for the Heisman Trophy than Lamar Jackson, representing the University of Louisville in the voting for college football’s most outstanding player in 2016.

Jackson is as soft spoken as they come, unassuming, unassertive, somewhat reluctant to accept all the praise coming his way, giving any credit for his accomplishments to his teammates. He genuinely seems surprised that the sports media is making such a fuss over him.

Lamar Jackson prefers wins over individual awards (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Lamar Jackson prefers wins over individual awards (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I just go out there and play and try to win games and have fun with the team,” he said during a Monday evening press conference. The UofL sophomore indicated that he was surprised at being named a finalist for the Heisman award.

This  despite becoming the first player in Division I history to gain 1,500 yards rushing and 3,300 yards passing in a single season. Only the sixth player to ever post 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season.

Jackson has achieved greatness in a year when the community of Louisville bade farewell to Muhammad Ali, one of the most recognized faces in the world. Ali was loved and respected in spite of his brashness, his arrogant speech and braggadocious personality.

Jackson is, without question, the polar opposite of Muhammad Ali, quietly going about his business. The UofL sophomore has the college football world focusing on him and Louisville football like never before in the history of the program. 

Jackson is not a natural when it comes to public speaking. He would rather be anywhere else instead of in front of a microphone. He is so reticent to speak that the result that he mumbles his remarks, often making his words almost incomprehensible.

There have been many great athletes at the University of Louisville, among them Darrell Griffith who led UofL to its first national basketball championship in 1980. Griffith was considered a Louisville legend long before his cut down the net in Indianapolis.

Jackson, regardless of his low key approach, may have already achieved the status of another “living legend” at UofL. He may well win the Heisman Trophy this weekend in New York, and may even contend for the award again next season.

But for Lamar Jackson, it’s pretty obvious that team honors come first with him. Even more apparent that Jackson will consider next season a failure if UofL is not a serious contender for the college football playoffs and a national championship.

If Bobby Petrino can assemble a support cast to protect him and take full advantage of his exceptional skills, Jackson’s senior year could be very special. The Heisman Trophy is nice, but it’s a distant second to what Jackson wants to accomplish at UofL. 

Card Game photographer assailed after UofL-Maryland game

A would-be thief came up empty-handed after attacking a photographer who frequently shoots University of Louisville games for UofLCardGame. The assailant fled after inflicting severe pain on a good friend and associate.

 Cindy Rice Shelton
Cindy Rice Shelton

Cindy Rice Shelton has been taking photos for Card Game since we became acquainted during the UofL baseball season. I was impressed with her shooting eye, and her work during the football and basketball seasons has significantly enhanced the graphics on the site.

Shelton, who was courtside Thursday for the UofL-Maryland women’s basketball game, had left the KFC Yum! Center at approximately 9:30 p.m. She had uploaded her SD cards to her laptop computer and was returning to her car a couple of blocks away.

After crossing the street at First and Main, someone attacked her, attempting to grab one or both of her cameras. “I had my cameras criss-crossed around my body,” she said. “When he couldn’t get the cameras, he just knocked me down on the sidewalk and ran away.”

“I was in severe pain, bloodying a knee and elbow, and having fallen on one of my cameras,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to get up by myself.”

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