(L to R: Robert Elam (father), Andrew Elam (nephew) and Robbie Elam - courtesy of JD Shelburne)
When players and coaches often say that "it's just different here" at Kentucky, and that the Big Blue Nation fanbase are some of the most passionate, die heard fans in all of college sports, I believe them. Any many of you do too. There are countless of stories that I have heard in my lifetime like the one I'm about to tell you, that only continue to back up that statement - that it IS just different here. The fans care so much about their Kentucky Wildcats.
I'm here to tell you about Kentucky Football super-fan, Robbie Elam. The 54 year old will be in attendance for Kentucky vs. New Mexico State, and it will not be his first. In fact, it will actually be his 250th straight home game watching the Kentucky Wildcats playing in Kroger Field, formerly known as Commonwealth Stadium.
Fun Fact: Robbie Elam is cousins with country music star, JD Shelburne.
Robbie says that he first got into watching the Wildcats as an 17 year old boy, under the helm of Jerry Claiborne. Just 37 years ago did his streak of attending home games begin, and admittedly, he didn't plan this out. He didn't go into it with the hopes of this happening, he said, "It just happened. I didn't ever want to not be there." As a teenager, he started attending games with his brother and his father. As time passed on, those two didn't continue coming without missing some games here and there, so now the streak only counts for him. "I've had to move a few things around and reschedule a bunch, but I always got it to work."
When asked what has changed the most in the game-day environments at Kroger Field, he said, "Now there is a lot more music, all the jumbotrons, the band plays a larger role." He continued with there being more blue worn to games now. "It wasn't always like that. There is a lot more blue now." I asked Mr. Elam if he had any specific routine, or lucky superstition that he's done all of these years in preparation for each game, and he said, "Not really, although, I do always wear my blue UK football jersey to all the games." I didn't want to give out his exact seat, but apparently you can spot him in the same section he's been in for the last 6-8 years, since moving across the stadium after the renovations that took place. "Before the renovations, we sat in the same seats for at least 20-25 years."
With all those home games being seen right in person, I asked Mr. Elam, who has been some of his favorite players that have came through and played for his Wildcats. He was quick to say Tim Couch. As no one could blame him for choosing him, I asked him who were a few others he could think of as some of his all-time favorites. He said, "Randall Cobb, he was fun. Derek Abney too, the punt returner. Oh, and Benny Snell."
During the timespan of 250 straight games, that of course means plenty of different teams to fall in love with. I asked Robbie which team did he enjoy watching the most and he said the 2007 team. Pointed out the wins over No.1 LSU, beating a top-ten Louisville team that year as well. I asked, "Who were your favorite players off of that team?" He responded, "Andre Woodson, Jacob Tamme, Dicky Lyons Jr., and Trevard Lindley."
One question in specific I really wanted to hear his input on, was how his time being a season ticket holder has been. If you're a season ticket holder in Kentucky football, and have been for decades, you exactly fit the criteria of what it means to be a true, dedicated fan. Through the good and bad, a lot of bad, you've seen it all. Mr. Elam replies, "Well, it's been real fun. I've enjoyed it a lot. Wish we could've had a few more wins though." That quote right there set both of us off, laughing in agreement.
Many of life-long 'seasoned' Kentucky fans seem to have game-day superstitions, or routines that they do - I know my grandmother does. She sits on her "lucky pillow" for the basketball games and swears it works - so I wanted to see if he had anything in specific that he did in preparation for the games. Mr. Elam said he didn't really have any superstition or lucky thing, but he did have a certain routine for every single game-day. Says he would always head towards the stadium the same way, traveling the same roads, coming in the same gates, and always wearing his blue UK jersey for each game. When cold enough, would quite often eat his mothers home made Chili before heading to the game as well, as a part of his pregame activties as the teenage crowd likes to call it.
And finally, to wrap up this very fun conversation, I wanted to know who was his favorite coach all-time that he has watched? He said it would likely be Rich Brooks or Mark Stoops.
"Rich brought us a lot of good wins, bowl trips, and some good teams." Continues by saying that Mark Stoops has taken this team "really far from where it was when he got here," and has enjoyed the heights it has reached. "Mark is a great coach. A good defensive coach, from where this program was when he started out to where it is now, he has built it from the foundation up. He has done a good job."
From 17 years old, to 54, Robbie Elam has seen many games as a Kentucky Wildcat fan. After digging through some old files of Commonwealth Stadium records as well as Kroger Field records, by my count, Robbie Elam has experienced a 116-101-4 record of watching Kentucky home football games. Out of the 37 full seasons, only 15 of them have been winning record seasons, with five of those coming from Mark Stoops. Twenty one of those seasons have had at least 7 losses in them, and three of those seasons had 10 losses... Jesus Christ, talk about being a loyal fan to his favorite team. I admire that so much. Watching Kentucky football haste always been fun, but deservedly so, these fans who have stuck it out are finally getting rewarded it seems.
That's the best part about Kentucky fans though. They're loyal. They're good people that love nothing more than their family and their Kentucky Wildcats. I've grown up in this state. In my 23 years of life, I was taught that being a Kentucky fan was just part of it - a way of life. And none of this information that I have learned since speaking with Mr. Elam surprises me one bit. This truly is the greatest fan base in the entire world, and being a Kentucky fan is what we all bond through, and all that we will ever be.