By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fan Katie Hensley now lives in Boston and was recently in Ft. Lauderdale for vacation with her boyfriend and his family to see the Colorado Rockies open the baseball season. She had lived in Colorado for a couple of years and thought it would be a fun trip in warm weather.
Since the NCAA Tournament was going on, she was looking for somewhere to watch games and the bar was full at the hotel where she was staying. Luckily, there was a hotel next door with a bar and grill.
“We were the only ones in there. It was kind of late,” Hensley, a 2014 UK graduate, said. “We asked our waiter if he could turn on the games. I was with a bunch of Duke fans and our waiter asked us who we were rooting for.”
When Hensley told him she was rooting for Kentucky to win the tournament, he told Hensley he was actually going to Kentucky next year. Turns out the waiter was quarterback Nik Scalzo, a UK signee. Of course, Hensley didn’t know that immediately.
“He didn’t mention he was a quarterback. I did recognize the name when he said it, but I don’t follow UK football quite closely enough that I picked up he was a football player,” Hensley said.
Turns out Scalzo’s father owns Sun Tower Hotel & Suites along with the Sand Bar Grill where the UK signee had been called in to work when another wait couldn’t be there.
“During the summer I work four times a week so I can make money,” Scalzo said. “During the school year I just work when they need me to replace somebody.”
Hensley said he graciously let them stay late to watch games while he was sweeping the floor and doing other things to prepare for closing.
“We were just talking and I thought he was just going to be a UK student,” Hensley, age 27, said. “I finally asked him why Kentucky and he said, ‘I am going to be the quarterback.’ He was so unassuming but I remembered I had read about him and told him that.
“He was recovering from an ACL injury but he looked fine. I went back up and read up more about him. I wish now I had asked him more questions.”
Scalzo said he normally doesn’t have time to talk as much with guests as he did Hensley and her party but because it was near closing time, he was able to have more of a conversation with them.
“Once she said she went to Kentucky, the conversation just went from there,” Scalzo said.
Hensley said her boyfriend’s father asked him who his game might remind them of and he quickly said Baker Mayfield, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma who had a banner rookie season for the Cleveland Browns.
Scalzo is rated as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in Florida and led Cardinal Gibbons to a 32-6 record in his three seasons as a starter while completing 59.6 percent of his passes — 522 for 876 — for 6,471 yards with 74 touchdowns (both school records) and only 23 interceptions. He also ran for 613 yards on 147 carries with four scores.
Hensley said Scalzo didn’t brag on himself but did agree to take a photo with her that she posted on Twitter. The UK signee later retweeted it and Hensley was surprised how much attention the tweet got.
She’s originally from Cincinnati. Her parents, Carol and Mark Hensley, are 1984 UK graduates who met their freshman year at UK. They have UK season tickets and she says she was “born and raised” on UK.
“I follow Kentucky big time but I never ever thought about running into a future UK quarterback in Ft. Lauderdale,” Hensley said. “We could easily have just eaten dinner and gone our separate ways. Now I have to get to Lexington for a game to see him play. I need a new UK jersey ”
She says she needs a new UK jersey, so once she finds out his number — he hopes it will be No. 2 — she’s almost certain to buy that one.
“You just never know about the reach of BBN,” she said.