By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
FORT THOMAS, Ky. - For former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen, success hasn’t always come easily.
It’s interesting how history sometimes writes itself, and the pen seems not to have fallen favorably upon Lorenzen. The lore would be quick to point out that he was the losing quarterback in the fabled “Bluegrass Miracle” game against LSU. He also is known as the signal-caller who fumbled the football on the game’s final play in an NCAA-record-tying seven-overtime loss to Arkansas in 2003. Jokes about his weight and his large stature also seem to cloud his playing career.
But there are the impressive facts that history seems to ignore. Lorenzen is Kentucky’s all-time leader in total offense both in a game (525) and a career (10,637). He is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time career leader in total offensive plays (1,793) and ranks sixth all-time in league history in total offense. Lorenzen is his alma mater’s all-time leading passer with 10,354 yards and 78 touchdowns. And don’t forget, he also won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New York Giants.
But more importantly than all those gaudy statistics, Lorenzen is winning at life. In July, he was named the commissioner of the Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL), an indoor football league in which he previously played quarterback for the Northern Kentucky River Monsters.
“These guys will run through a wall for you,” Lorenzen said from his office at the Bank of Kentucky Center in Fort Thomas, Ky., close to his hometown of Covington.
He cherishes the opportunity that he has with the UIFL. Undrafted out of college, Lorenzen knows the hard work that it takes to reach the next level. He is excited to work with young players who are looking for the same opportunity.
“These guys are willing to do anything,” Lorenzen said. “Someone that has that on their mind is a scary human being. All they want is one shot so that their career can come full circle. That’s what I’m trying to help them accomplish, whether it’s them playing in a game, or getting to Canada or playing in the NFL. They want the chance to prove to themselves that all that hard work was worth it.”
Lorenzen says most of the players that he works with are straight out of college – “young bucks” he affectionately calls them – and they look to him for advice on how to achieve their goals in life.
“They just want to soak up everything,” Lorenzen said. “It’s exciting because the guys I work with now kind of look to me to have the answers. This is what they do as a livelihood and they just want to get to the next level. Everybody wants somebody to be realistic and truthful and tell them exactly what they need to work on, and I’m that guy.”
Many of the players with whom Lorenzen works haven’t been the standouts or the celebrities on the college gridiron. Despite having a great amount of success at Kentucky, Lorezen can relate. It takes him back to his days in college, facing hostile environments at many SEC stadiums around the league.
“The main thing I try to tell them is that things are going to go wrong,” Lorenzen said. “Life is not perfect and sometimes you’re going to have a hard time. But if you just keep fighting through it, you’re eventually going to break down the wall. To this day, I know that when things are bad, you just have to keep going. I remember when I played, I kept telling my offensive line that. I told them that I knew they were tired and I knew it wasn’t very enjoyable, but just to keep going because we were going to score.”
“I had no idea what I wanted to do. I think that’s the way about 95 percent of people who go to college feel.”
Rewind to the fall of 2000 when Lorenzen set foot on the Lexington, Ky., campus. Competing at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, where he was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball), Lorenzen had been inspired by the phenomenon of Tim Couch, who had helped lead the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl appearances.
“People ask me if I would have considered going anywhere else and I always say ‘No,’” Lorenzen said. “When I was coming out of high school, Tim Couch was everything, and we got to be very good friends. It was so nice to be able to have friends and family and your high school coaches be able to watch you. Playing in front of those fans – Kentucky people – I had a blast.”
Lorenzen admittedly didn’t focus much on his academics as a freshman. He wasn’t sure what his career aspirations were and wasn’t thinking about much besides football.
“My freshman year, I wasn’t very smart – I messed around a lot and didn’t do well academically,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you wish you could go back 10 years in your life and talk to yourself then. Everybody thinks they are going to play professionally for 15 years and won’t have to worry about money, and then when you’re done, a job will just be given to you. The truth is, it isn’t that way at al. You need your skills from college to fall back on. It’s not just a saying or a joke.”
Soon after his freshman season at Kentucky, Lorenzen decided to get serious about his future. He wasn’t sure what he would do, but he was relentless in his pursuit to find something.
“I talked to everybody I knew,” he said. “I talked to people in all different fields and asked them, ‘What do you love about your field?” I was constantly talking to people on the team. I wanted to know the plusses of the different fields. I also looked at job placement percentages – I wanted to know, what is the chance they can help place me in a job when I get done? I was constantly trying to do as much research as I could do.”
He found his home in the College of Agriculture, where he pursued a communications degree. It was a decision that Lorenzen wouldn’t regret, as he found a second home in the academic sphere.
“I got into a communications program at the agricultural college and it was phenomenal,” Lorenzen said. “That’s a big program at Kentucky and I dealt with them for the next four years of my life. I had the chance to leave and get into other programs or other colleges, but I didn’t want to. I loved them and I loved that major. I stayed there the rest of my time at Kentucky and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Taylar Lorenzen just recently celebrated her ninth birthday this summer.
She was born to Jared and wife Tamara when the couple was still in college. He says Taylar is the best thing that happened to him during his time in Lexington and her birth made him grow up fast.
“I really can’t believe I played two years of college football with a young daughter,” Lorenzen said.
Taylar was one of many people who had an impact on Lorenzen during his time in Lexington. One of the other notables was Rich Brooks, the third head coach he would play under with the Wildcats.
“He taught me how to handle myself as a professional,” Lorenzen said. “He taught us that you’re not just a professional when you are on the football field, it is something you have to carry with you every day and everywhere you go. You never get a day off and nothing is off the record. People want to see you in the public eye. They want to see how someone reacts with the publicity that they get for playing football.
It wasn’t always easy for Lorenzen. His team went 2-9 in each of his first two years, as the Wildcats drew constant criticism from the local media. His junior year of 2002, Kentucky went 7-5 and defeated both Louisville and Arkansas on the road, but due to NCAA sanctions, the Wildcats were not bowl eligible. Soon after, head coach Guy Morriss jumped ship and headed to Baylor marking yet another coaching change.
But this time it was different. Brooks was coming in ready to build something made to last. Lorenzen was able to help lay the foundation for what would later become a school-record four consecutive bowl berths under Brooks’ direction.
“My senior year was Coach Brooks’ first year,” Lorenzen said. “I like to think we set the tone for what everybody wanted it to be like. We could have jumped ship, but we stuck behind it. Coach Brooks is the main reason why Kentucky football is where it is today.”
Playing football at the collegiate and professional levels can be very time consuming. Balancing athletics, academics and a family wasn’t always an easy task for Lorenzen. But it was all worth it on the day the Giants hoisted the Super Bowl XLII trophy in 2007.
Lorenzen had gone undrafted out of college, but made the roster of the New York Giants before the 2005 campaign. In the team’s Super Bowl season, Lorenzen played as a back-up behind Eli Manning.
And he was there that night in Glendale, Ariz., when the Giants won it all. He considers it the highlight of his career, but not for selfish reasons.
“It’s the pinnacle of the game,” Lorenzen said. “I was at the top of my NFL career. For myself, it was great to be able to watch my wife and my mom and dad, and my step mom be able to celebrate with me. It was a lot of fun. You know, you put those people – your family and friends – through a lot. I was gone to New York a lot of the time and wasn’t around. But to be able to celebrate with them on that night, it was the best.”
Lorenzen was released by the Giants in June 2008 and soon joined the Indianapolis Colts. But he was waived during the final cuts for the 53-man roster.
“I really can’t complain at all,” Lorenzen said. “I went to New York and played with the Giants for three years. I won a Super Bowl there and had a great time. I was with the Colts for six weeks in training camp, so I got to see what it was like to play behind both Eli and Payton Manning.”
Lorenzen returned to Lexington in 2009 as the quarterback of the Kentucky Horsemen, the town’s arenafootball2 franchise. The Horsemen went 10-6 that season, advancing to the conference semifinals. He then took a year off after the birth of his son Taydem before taking an assistant coaching position at Highlands High School, his alma mater.
He was hired to become the general manager of the Northern Kentucky River Monsters, but ended up taking over as the team’s quarterback last season. He directed the league’s top scoring offense, averaging better than 56 points per game. Lorenzen was the league’s top passer, completing 282-of-490 tosses for 3,473 yards with 81 touchdowns. But after the year, in which his team finished with an 11-4 record, Lorenzen knew it was time to hang it up.
“I went on and tried the arena stuff,” Lorenzen said. “I played in Lexington and then played another year in the UIFL and had a phenomenal time, I really did. But when the season ended, my body finally started telling me no. Last year was going to be my last season. I accepted the commissioner role with the UIFL. It’s a little something different and allows me to focus on and learn the business aspect.”
His duties with the UIFL will center on advancing the league, forming various councils, writing blogs and working directly with teams and players.
“I am here to do what I can to help benefit the league,” Lorenzen said. “It is a stepping stone to get to Arena 1. I want to help everyone get to the next level. I want to get to know the players and the owners of the teams and do what we can to advance the league.”
For Lorenzen, life is pretty good right now. He bought a house in Fort Thomas, Ky., about four years ago, where he is close to family and friends with whom he grew up. He has an office on the campus of Northern Kentucky University and he is doing what he loves.
Taylar turned nine a few weeks ago and Taydem turns two in September. It is a comfortable life for Lorenzen, who has always put family first. It showed when he chose to attend the University of Kentucky and it showed when he turned down offers to play in NFL Europe to be closer to his family.
“I’m really happy with where I am,” Lorenzen said. “I have two healthy kids and a job. I have no complaints.”