Instincts guide Abney

By BRIAN RICKERD State Journal Sports Writer Published:

LEXINGTON - It's as tough for UK's extraordinary kick returner Derek Abney to explain his success as it is for defenders to tackle him.

"A lot of people ask me what's going through my head," says Abney, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior, of returning kickoffs and punts. "The first thing is I have to catch the ball. The next thing is kind of a glance at where my blockers are and their tacklers. Then it's just reaction.

"People ask me about it, and I don't know how to answer it because it's all instinct," Abney added. "I guess it goes back to when you're little and you play those games where you have one ball and everybody's trying to tackle you, and you do not want to get tackled because you're the smallest guy out there. That's how it goes. You can't really teach it (kick returning). It just happens."

Don't just take Abney's word for it. His credibility is in the numbers. Abney was named a first-team All American last season as a junior. And while he's a plenty good wide receiver, the honor came because he's an unbelievable kick returner.

Abney ran six kicks - four punts and two kickoffs - back for touchdowns last year. That broke a single season NCAA record. He averaged an astonishing 15.1 yards on punt returns and 26.8 yards on kickoffs. He set five NCAA records, nine SEC records and 10 school records for kick returns.

Abney also had 40 pass receptions for 569 yards and another four touchdowns.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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