April 6, 2012

Cassity brings miltary background, wrestling experience to field

Mike Cassity's voice carries like a woodpecker in a silent forest. From one side of football practice to the next, his calls can be heard over whistles, tackles, Of all the assistants on the UK football team, the new defensive backs coach might be the loudest.

That's before he gets angry. Then you can really hear him. In every drill, with every rep, he wants precision, senior safety Martavius Neloms said.

"He coaches hard," senior cornerback Cartier Rice said. "But he wants the best for us."

Cassity is well-versed in running a tight ship. His father was Sgt. Maj. Herman Cassity, stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Division.

"The approach you take is that discipline is very important to you," Cassity said. "Little things - yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am - are just things that have always stuck to me. The biggest thing is the discipline. The regimented, day-to-day structure."

The elder Cassity was a lifer in the Army. His son grew up mostly in Kentucky before becoming a coach and working all over the country. But many of his stops weren't far from home.

His career began as a student coach for the Wildcats in 1975. Five years later, he was an assistant at UK in charge of the secondary. He also has stops at Morehead State, Western Kentucky, and Louisville, where he was defensive coordinator from 2004-07.

"He's a great teacher," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "He's very loyal. He's a Kentucky Wildcat. He's coached at every major school in the state. He's a great recruiter. More importantly, he's a great person and a great, loyal staff member."

This is the third time Minter and Cassity have worked together. Cassity coached defensive backs at Cincinnati when Minter was head coach there, and they were reunited at Marshall when Minter was defensive coordinator for the Thundering Herd.

He started at safety in his final two seasons with the Wildcats, in 1973 and 1974. His time was split in those days between the football team and the UK wrestling team. He doesn't talk about his days as a wrestler much, but the mentality he learned as a wrestler helped his focus on the football field.

"It's one-on-one when you're on the mat (wrestling) and it's one-on-one when you're out there on an island at the defensive back position," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "He understands how to play the game. He has passion for this place here."

That passion is evident to his players. Neloms said Cassity is much more intense than Steve Brown, who Cassity replaced.

"The first day he came in here, he told us out on the field he would work just as hard as we will," senior safety Mikie Benton said. "If we were out here breaking a sweat, he's going to be out here breaking a sweat. You'll see him on the field, he'll run around with us. If we do something good, he'll chest bump us. If we do something wrong, he's loud. He's right there in our head."

In another life, Benton said, you could imagine Cassity as a drill sergeant. He has the background, the attitude, and of course, the voice.

"I'm a big believer in fundamentals and toughness," Cassity said. "I learned some of those qualities at an early age. I've coached that way ever since."

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