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Derek Abney: An Appreciation

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Kentucky has had some memorable players over the years. Tim Couch was quite good, good enough to become a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Plus, his last name made sack jokes real easy. There was never a dull moment when Jared Lorenzen was around, and he spawned some great names of his own (J-Load, the Hefty Lefty, and the Pillsbury Throwboy to name a few).

But, there's only one Kentucky player that I can legitimately say scared me every time he touched the ball: Derek Abney.

He has faded a bit into Bolivian, as Mike Tyson might say, as he never was able to catch on to an NFL team for very long. I can assure you though, he's not forgotten. He was pretty good as a receiver, but it wasn't his wideout skills that had me shaking in my boots. This did:

Derek Abney 101 Yards vs. the Gators (via brianmcmurtry)

He's quite possibly the best return man the conference has ever seen, what with the 5 NCAA, 11 SEC, and 14 school records that he left Lexington holding. No one since has struck as much fear in the hearts of opponents when returning kicks and punts, with the possible exception of Brandon James versus Tennessee.

The 2002 Florida game was one of Abney's finest. He had a kickoff return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, and a receiving touchdown as the Wildcats came within seven of beating the Gators. They would have done it too if not for two Keiwan Ratliff pick sixes (remember: never a dull moment with Lorenzen). He would not have a touchdown in the 2003 game, but he did have 67 rushing and receiving yards in a three point loss that required a Florida comeback from being down 17.

So here's to you, Derek Abney. As we celebrate and breakdown Kentucky for 2009, here's a shout out to one who's come before. And please, never touch a football in Gainesville again. Thank you.