By LARRY VAUGHT
Vince Marrow is a relentless recruiter in part because of the way he builds relationships and keeps his words both with recruits and their families.
He did that again with 10-year-old Kentucky fan Brody Schaffer.
You might remember that Schaffer is the youngster who broke down in tears on Christmas when he found out his father was taking him to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl. The video of his reaction got over 250,000 social media views in the first 24 hours after it was posted.
Marrow, UK’s recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach, was one of those who saw the video. He responded on Twitter and offered to find a way for Brody and his father, Jimbo Schaffer, to attend a practice in Orlando — and they did just that Monday to watch final preparations for Tuesday’s game against Penn State.
“Vince did indeed reach out and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy,” Jimbo Schaffer said. “We showed up today at practice and he walked us around to every coach and all the big-time players. He made sure to tell them, ‘This is the young man you saw on Twitter.’ All those guys could not have been more gracious, more pleasant.
“Coach Marrow said we could go anywhere. He said we had a VIP pass. We got to meet all the players and a bunch of former players.”
They met former UK quarterback Dusty Bonner, who is now part of the UK Radio Network. They met former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, now the director of player development for Kentucky football. They even got to meet running back Benny Snell’s parents and sister.
Jimbo Schaffer was most impressed about meeting coach Mark Stoops’ brother, Bob — who won a national championship at Oklahoma before retiring before the 2017 season.
“I didn’t hardly recognize him with a beard. Once I did, I was kind of star struck myself. When I was growing up, he was the man,” Jimbo Schaffer said. “Brody was overwhelmed a lot, too. He was impressed that a lot of guys remembered him from seeing the video. That caught him off guard. He said, ‘Dad, they really saw me on Twitter.’ But in the airport I heard people say, ‘That was the kid we saw on TV.’ We got off the plane in Orlando and one of the fans yelled for him to have fun at practice.”
Jimbo Schaffer got a first-hand look at why the Kentucky coaches like this group of players so much. He was amazed that players like Snell and Josh Allen, a potential top 10 NFL draft pick, both were so kind to his son.
“They are not only great athletes but super human beings,” Jimbo Schaffer said. “His sister had given him a new Kentucky hat for Christmas. On our way to practice we stopped to get a Sharpie so he could get autographs. Benny Snell said he was not actually supposed to be signing autographs but said he would do it for Brody and Brody just turned red and smiled. He was so thrilled.”
The Schaffers plan to be at the game early Tuesday so they can pick up the on-field credential Citrus Bowl officials offered them after seeing the Christmas video.
“We’ll get the credentials, head over to the Cat Walk and then we get to go on the field for pregame,” Jimbo Schaffer said.
How will the father ever top this Christmas gift for his son?
“I’ll never be able to top this for him. He’s really taking it all in and appreciates everything,” Jimbo Schaffer said. “He knows this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and so do I. It’s all been great and what Vince Marrow did for us today is something I know I will never forget and neither will Brody.”