The highlight of Joey Gatewood’s brief time as a Kentucky Wildcats quarterback came on Halloween in 2020 at Kroger Field.
With UK starting QB Terry Wilson sidelined by injury, Gatewood, a 6-foot-5, 221-pound transfer from Auburn, directed the Wildcats against the No. 5-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
In what became a 14-3 UK loss to the Bulldogs, Gatewood completed 15 of 25 passes for 91 yards and ran 16 times for 23 yards.
Alas, after Penn State transfer Will Levis was named the UK starting QB for 2021, Gatewood transferred to Central Florida. He played the past two seasons at UCF as a backup QB and wide receiver.
Last week brought news that the Jacksonville, Fla., product is returning to the commonwealth. Using the “free COVID-19” year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to athletes enrolled during the 2020-21 school year, Gatewood has signed to play tight end for Jeff Brohm at Louisville.
The fact that an ex-Cat has chosen to become a current Card inspired me to think about high-profile players in the two most visible sports who have “crossed enemy lines” and played for both Kentucky and Louisville.
In my lifetime, Marvin Stone, who played for Tubby Smith (1999-2000 through 2001-2002) at UK then played for Rick Pitino at U of L (2002-03), is the only prominent men’s hoops player to move from blue to red.
Walk-on Zan Payne left Kentucky before last season as a graduate transfer to play at U of L for his father, then-first-year Cardinals head man Kenny Payne. Otherwise, you have to go back to the 1940s to find the most recent basketball players who moved between UK and U of L.
In football, there have been enough transfers between the Cats and Cards that I have picked a “Mount Rushmore” of football players who have played for both Kentucky and Louisville since 1985.
In alphabetical order:
Where he started: Kentucky. It was a massive recruiting coup for Jerry Claiborne in 1986 when UK signed Trinity High School stars Andy Murray, Mike Pfeifer and Gardner.
The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Gardner became a multi-year starter at defensive end in Claiborne’s wide-tackle six. However, off-the-field issues eventually led to Gardner and UK reaching a “mutual agreement” to part ways.
Where he finished: Louisville. Cardinals Coach Howard Schnellenberger moved Gardner to fullback and the position switch was a massive hit. In 1989, Gardner rushed for 595 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 46 passes for 614 yards and five TDs.
Postscript: Enjoyed an eight-year NFL career as a fullback.
Where he started: Kentucky. The South Oldham star rushed for more than 6,300 yards and 61 TDs in his career and won the 1992 Paul Hornung Award as the state’s player of the year.
However, Gordon was in the same UK recruiting class as another star running back, Moe Williams. As a result, Gordon carried the football only 14 times for 84 yards and a TD as a freshman in 1993 and 38 times for 231 yards as a sophomore in 1994.
Where he finished: Louisville. Gordon transferred to U of L and had his best college season in 1996 for Coach Ron Cooper. Gordon ran 115 times for 433 yards and three TDs and caught 21 passes for 200 yards.
Knee issues limited Gordon to 19 carries and one reception as a senior in 1997.
Postscript: Gordon joined the Lexington police department as an officer in 2005.
Where he started: Kentucky. As a redshirt sophomore at UK for Jerry Claiborne in 1986, the 5-11, 182-pound Smith flashed star potential. The Paducah Tilghman product caught 23 passes for 420 yards, ran for four touchdowns, returned a punt 64 yards for a TD and returned a kickoff 75 yards for a score.
However, Smith left Kentucky after the receiver was arrested in Cincinnati on a drug charge that was eventually reduced to a misdemeanor.
Where he finished: Louisville. After UK’s Claiborne wrote a letter to the NCAA supporting Smith in an eligibility dispute, the Paducah product was cleared to play the final six games of the 1989 season for Howard Schnellenberger’s Cardinals.
For the Cards, Smith ran for 240 yards and three TDs and caught 19 passes for 197 yards.
Where he started: Louisville. Howard Schnellenberger and U of L prevailed over Bill Curry and UK in a fierce recruiting battle for Wyatt, a 14-time state champion sprinter at Paducah Tilghman.
As a Louisville freshman in 1991, Wyatt caught 11 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Where he finished: Kentucky. In his first season at UK in 1993, Wyatt caught 13 passes for 64 yards and carried the ball 17 times for 123 yards and a touchdown.
That season, he made what may have been the most important play of the Curry coaching era. With UK trailing at South Carolina 17-7 in the fourth quarter, Wyatt took an option pitch and ripped off a 64-yard touchdown run that sparked the Wildcats to a 21-17 comeback victory.
That win ultimately made it possible for Kentucky to reach six wins in 1993 and bowl eligibility for the only time in the Curry era.
Postscript: Wyatt went on to be a state championship-winning football and track and field coach at his high school alma mater.