Tell me if you have heard this one before: the Big Blue Mist descends on Nashville for a Kentucky Wildcats sporting event. From the SEC Basketball Tournament to Music City Bowl games, the Big Blue Nation has always traveled well to the capital city in Tennessee. With those appearances, all of the local businesses have raked in the Big Blue dollars, making the Wildcats fanbase a welcome sight.
This year, the TransPerfect Music City Bowl was not the destination that Coach Mark Stoops and the 2022 Kentucky Wildcats football team likely had in mind when they began the season. However, due to injuries, suspensions and bad offensive play calling led the Wildcats to a 7-5 record, placing them in the bowl game, which is played in Nashville, Tennessee, for a record sixth time. The familiarity with the area has led Kentucky to be able to successfully recruit the high schools in the metro Nashville area.
Freshmen Keaton and Destin Wade played at Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which is approximately 30 miles south of Nashville. Keaton Wade has shown signs of greatness while backing up Jordan Wright and JJ Weaver at linebacker. Destin Wade has been the backup quarterback for the last several weeks and seems likely to play significant minutes in the bowl game.
Freshman wide receiver Barion Brown played his high school football at Pearl-Cohn High School in downtown Nashville. Brown has been brilliant, both catching the ball, as well as in the kick return game. Brown had 45 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns. Brown also returned 15 kicks for 424 yards and a touchdown, which was a 100 yard kickoff return.
These Nashville area players have been key contributors as freshmen this season. When asked about the impact that recruiting Nashville area players has had on the team, coach Stoops said, "It’s nice and close. The guys like it. The players on our team from this area that have come in really fit in well. They’re good players and good people and that helps us recruit the next group.”
It's clear that coach Stoops plans on expanding the Kentucky footprint in Nashville, when the Wildcats signed 4-star wide receiver Shamar Porter this recruiting cycle. Porter is a big, dynamic receiver who played at Ensworth High School in Nashville. He gives the Wildcats a big target on the outside to go along with Barion Brown. If Destin Wade develops into a starter at quarterback, you could have a “Nashville Connection” working in a couple of seasons.