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From Knoxville News - Sentinel
eer Barrel' good medicine for what ailed 'Cats in past
by GORDON SMITH
"Holy (bleep)!" exclaimed Kentucky backup defensive tackle John Shannon. "Look at that thing. It's . . . it's beautiful."
The victorious Wildcats had been in their locker room for a good 20 minutes and the tumultuous frenzy that goes with big wins had somewhat subsided.
But the chaotic scene was reborn when a manager had come through the door and handed the revered "Beer Barrel" to running back George Adams.
The muscular Adams, clad only in a towel wrapped around his waist, looked like a black Adonis as he paraded triumphantly through the dressing room, holding the heavy blue, white and orange-painted wooden keg above his head.
"Man, I had no idea it was like that," said Shannon, a redshirt freshman. "Wow! So that's the 'Beer Barrel.' I thought it was just a beer barrel. You know, one of those metal things."
Shannon's wide, startled eyes reflected much of what the incredibly wild celebration was about-. You see, since Tennessee holds a 48-23-9 edge in the series, not too many Kentucky players have laid eyes on the "Beer Barrel.'* And since Shannon has been at Kentucky only two seasons, he couldn't have seen the prize. Kentucky hadn't won since 1981.
That moment was but one of many warm ones during a celebration filled with smiles, laughs, embraces and tears of happiness. Players cried, parents cried, friends and schoolmates cried.
Shortly after the 'Cats got to the dressing room, they surrounded Hall of Fame Bowl committee members who were there waiting.
"Hall of Fame . . . hey!. . . Hall of Fame . . . hey!" was the loud chant When UK director of athlet-
ics Cliff Hagan and coach Jerry Claiborne finally got the gang quiet, the bowl game invitation was extended by Fred Sington, committee chairman.
"We are set up to honor great college players," Sington said. "And you're all eligible."
Hagan said, "We'll come," and the chant began again. Kentucky will play Big 10 runnerup Wisconsin in the Dec. 29 game at Birmingham.
No sooner had Hagan accepted, when Claiborne began hugging his players and saying something private to each one. As he weaved an uncertain path through the mass of bodies, there were chants of "eight and three," which is UK's best record since 1971 when the Blue was 10-1.
"This is the biggest game of my life," shouted junior defensive back Russell Hairston.
"Me, too," said split end Cornell Burbage, No. 4, who'd been involved in a number of verbal exchanges with Tennessee defensive backs. "This is the biggest rivalry in the United States in my book," he said. "To come here and beat Tennessee on its field and to bring the 'Beer Barrel' back to Lexington. Oh! What a feeling."
When Caliborne finished hugging his players and concluded a radio show broadcast, he sat back against a dirty wall in the shabby, small locker room and talked of a program beginning to reap benefits.
"It's the first-class people we have that are doing it," he said. "I just feel like if you're a first-class person you do things right
"You work and do what you do to get where we are right now and the work has more meaning to it The players have begun to accept the motivation the staff tries to provide.
"I saw it coming, that we were getting to the kids, that second year of spring practice," said Claiborne, who's in his third season. "Then we
got some great senior leadership in the 1983 season. They really set the tone for hard work.
"I think the younger players saw these guys and how these guys improved with what they had to work with and it motivated the younger players. I do feel this victory is partly theirs (the players not at UK now).
"We're not there yet. But we're 3-3 in the conference. What we need to do is beat some of the winning teams, like Tennessee. But we're still not in the upper echelon. We're working for it
"We'll lose four players on offense next year and six on defense. We think we have the nucleus. But we've got to get some bigger linemen.
"I'll tell you," Claiborne said, wiping perspiration from his forehead. "We have a lot to work with for the recruiting season. We've beaten Tennessee here in Knoxville. We've gone 3-3 in the SEC. We're 8-3 on the season. We've received a second straight bowl bid. That's a lot of pluses for recruiting season. And we played good against Florida and beat Vanderbilt the week before."
As players and coaches began leaving the dressing room, some walked back onto the Neyland Stadium carpet
"Smile," said Mark Dumbauld, father of Kentucky defensive tackle Jon Dumbauld. C-l-i-c-k. He snapped a picture.
Smiling and posing were Dumbauld and fellow defensive linemen Matt Stein and David Thompson — all squeezed tight against the bright orange South end zone goal post and camera aimed to include the huge VOLS atop the stadium.
Someday, perhaps, Dumbauld, Stein and Thompson will tell their kids the legend of the "Beer Barrel" and about the day they had a hand in bringing it back to Lexington.
A Win In Vol Territory