ARLINGTON, Texas — For football fans, Jared Lorenzen was unlike anything seen before or since.
He was a left-handed quarterback squeezed into a nose tackle’s body that was somehow attached to a ballerina’s feet. To top it off, he was directing an Air Raid offense when it was still a newfangled look that hadn’t taken over the sport completely.
Kentucky football was never great, but the presence of the larger-than-life Lorenzen running a wide-open passing attack made their games a must-watch. The novelty of seeing Refrigerator Perry scoring 1-yard touchdowns for the 1985 Bears was being replicated by a guy dropping back on every offensive snap.
It was unsurprising, then, that the outpouring of sympathy over his July 3 death at age 38 spread well beyond the borders of the Big Blue Nation.
Losing Lorenzen hit especially close to home for West Virginia coach Neal Brown, who was his teammate for two years. Lorenzen was the quarterback for Brown’s lone career touchdown reception at Kentucky.
“I was on vacation when I got the news,” Brown said at Big 12 media days. “It hits you. One of my two best friends in the world, his dad passed away during last season. That hit really hard. That was one of my first friends whose father passed away. That was really a difficult time where you realize you’re getting to that stage in your life. And this was similar.
“When you lose young people – there shouldn’t be anybody dying at 37, 38 years old. Jared was such a bigger than life personality. A guy who never had a bad day. Laughed. Life of the party, jokester.”
Brown said fans related to Lorenzen on a more personal level than most athletes.
“He had issues most people could identify with,” Brown said. “Here’s a guy that won a Super Bowl, started in the SEC, but dealt with weight issues. Something an Everyday Joe non-athlete could relate to.”
Even if it was obscured by nicknames like “Hefty Lefty” and “The Pillsbury Throwboy,” make no mistake — Lorenzen was every bit an elite athlete.
“I always say there’s two types of athletes,” Brown said. “There’s guys that can run fast and jump high. And there’s guys who can go out there regardless of whatever game you play and he’s pretty good. Shoot a basketball, hit a baseball, hit a golf ball, play volleyball or tennis. He was one of those guys.”
In fact, Brown’s most enduring memories of Lorenzen are on the basketball court. They first crossed paths when both were high school basketball players in Kentucky.
“Here he is, a big dude, and he hits five or six 3-pointers and they beat us in a tournament in Lexington,” Brown said.
In college, they joined forces to take down unexpected challengers on an outdoor court while on a spring break trip to Panama City Beach, Fla.
“We were playing full-court basketball, and he was just dominant,” Brown said. “We had some really good athletes and some really good [former] high school basketball players that were playing, but he was the dominant player.
“He was really nimble. Really great on his feet. A really great athlete. It’s just a sad deal all the way around.”