January 3, 2012

Defensive end to rejoin team as walk-on in spring

The UK football team will have a big addition when it meets early next week.

Defensive end Nermin Delic, who earned playing time as a true freshman in 2010, is planning to arrive in Lexington on Sunday, January 8. He'll join the football team for meetings on Monday morning, then go through a pair of check-ups on the 9th and 10th before being fully cleared to play.

Delic underwent surgery for a torn groin in April. Then he suffered from a blood clot in his shoulder. He left the team in Summer 2011, but head coach Joker Phillips has offered him the chance to return as a walk-on with the chance to earn his scholarship back.

"I had a good conversation with Joker, my dad and (defensive line) coach( David) Turner," Delic said. "(Phillips) laid it out for me: If I can come in and do what I did last year, I'll have a scholarship."

Delic said he is "99 percent sure" he'll be cleared to play when he undergoes the physicals. He's been lifting weights and running for the last four months to get back in shape. While on a liquid-only diet in the hospital, his weight dropped to 248 pounds. He said he's now back to "a pretty chiseled 275," which is actually heavier than he was listed during his freshman season. He was listed at 6-foot-5 at UK.

Delic is expected to return to defensive end and will play the same position currently held by Collins Ukwu, who will be a senior for the 2012 season. Delic had spring practice in 2010 to learn some of the new scheme implemented by defensive coordinator Rick Minter, but will have to pick it up again to earn playing time.

Delic's injuries and the time in the hospital were too much for him. After being in the hospital for two weeks, he was done with football.

"I didn't have the mental capacity for any more pain," he said. "I didn't want to be in that position again … I want to say I regret the way I handled it, but at the time I was sure. I didn't want to get hurt like that again."

He left the team and returned to his home in Dalton, Ga., where he has since been working out. Before long, he realized he had made a mistake.

"I always feel like toughness has been one of my strengths," Delic said. "I feel like I lost that when I was in the hospital and I had to re-find it."

He started working his way back in the fall with the help of his friends and family. He spoke with freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith, who Delic calls his "best friend" every day. He watched every Kentucky game on TV this season.

It took some time for his groin to heal, which limited what he could do. Core work and prolonged jogging was difficult. Once he was healthy, though, there was no doubt that he wanted to return to football.

"I started gaining that fire back in me," he said.

Delic describes himself as a strong, flexible defensive lineman who moves well laterally and can get to the quarterback. He has the frame to handle a defensive end spot in a 3-4 and has been working on the pass rush moves that helped him get 1.5 sacks as a true freshman.

He didn't contact any other schools when he decided he wanted to return to football. Phillips was his first call.

"I missed Kentucky the whole time I was down here," Delic said. "I didn't want to be anywhere else."

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