A senior this fall at Washington High School, Tanner Lemaster has given a verbal commitment to attend the University of Kentucky where he will continue his education and be a member of the Wildcats’ football team.
“Vince Marrow (associate head coach and tight ends coach for the Wildcats) went after him hard,” Washington High School head football coach Chuck Williamson said. “(Marrow) is regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation. I believe he’s the highest-paid assistant recruiter in the country. He’s the real deal.
“They recruited Tanner as a true tight end,” Williamson said. “They run a lot of multi-tight end sets, which will be favorable to Tanner. He’s 6-6, 230 pounds. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s fast. They loved his hands; they loved everything about him. I think it’s a good fit.
“Tanner went down there and he loved it,” Williamson said.
“I think the last Division I guy to come out of Washington Court House was Mark Bihl,” Williamson said. Bihl played his college football at the University of Michigan. Washington grad Sean Dumford played Division I football at Eastern Kentucky University.
“For a kid to get recruited by an SEC (Southeastern Conference) team and get offered, it’s a huge deal,” Williamson said. “They recruit the country, so, Tanner is one of the top tight ends in the country to be able to go to that level. So, hats off to him.
“It didn’t come easy for him,” Williamson said. “He worked hard. Coach Marrow talked to him, in February, I believe. He told Tanner he had to get faster and he worked his tail off. He went to a speed specialist. He’s worked to get stronger and faster.”
Lemaster shed light on the process of being recruited by Division I schools.
“Some of the main factors were how the coaches were recruiting me, who showed the most interest during the process,” Lemaster said. “And who really showed love when they were trying to get me to go to their school.
“When I went to the games, not only the coaches, but, the rest of the staff, how they treated me,” Lemaster said. “Again, just showing me love and showing they really wanted me there.
“How they treated my family while they were there, too,” Lemaster said. “It’s not just me, it’s really how they treated everybody that came with me, my family and the coaches, of course.”
For his visit to Lexington, Lemaster, his mom and dad (Melissa and J.R.) and his two sisters (Hailey, who will be in the seventh grade and Bentley, who will be in second grade) were picked up in Washington C.H. and driven down there and back, after the visit.
“As of right now, I don’t plan on it,” Lemaster said, when asked if he would enroll early at UK. “I want to be able to graduate with all of my friends. I want to be able to play my senior year of basketball and baseball. I want to be able to enjoy the time that I have left (in high school). You’re only going to be in high school one time and there’s no point in rushing through it. I have the next four or five years in college.”
Under the tutelage of Blue Lion head coach Chuck Williamson, Lemaster feels he’s at least somewhat ahead of where he might be under another coach.
“Playing for Coach Williamson, I feel like it’s different than any other coach I’ve had, because he bases all of his workouts, practices, even our playbook, our whole program, is based off of college teams,” Lemaster said. “It’s really complex and it takes a lot of time to learn all of it inside and out.
“Until you’re a senior, there’s not a very good chance you’re going to be able to know everything on the fly,” Lemaster said. “I think playing for Coach Williamson, I feel like it will prepare me better for when I get there, because I’ll be used to having a really complex system, having to really focus up when you’re learning stuff. And, our workouts are based on college programs, too.
“The stuff I’ll be doing when I get to Kentucky, I’ll already have been doing it for four years,” Lemaster said.
People to thank
”I want to thank my parents,” Lemaster said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for them, because of all of the time they’ve put in, to help me be the best athlete…not even just athlete, the best person I can be.”
There was a strictness in his upbringing that seems to have served him well.
“They’ve always been really hard on me, making sure that I’m on top of everything,” Lemaster said. “Being on time, making sure I’m getting my school work done. I know my parents do it because they want what’s best for me and I can’t thank them enough for it.
“I also want to thank coach (Tyler) Flora,” Lemaster said. “He’s been my wide receivers coach since I was in eighth grade. Funny story with Coach Flora; I didn’t play football my seventh grade year. I played all the way up through sixth grade, then I didn’t want to play anymore. I was done with it.
“When I was in the eighth grade, I remember he was constantly coming up to me during my lunch period,” Lemaster said. “He was like, ‘come on man, play football, you won’t regret it. It’ll be fun.’ He was bugging me every day, and I was like, ‘fine, I’ll play. Just because you want me to.’ He’s really the reason I started playing again. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”
What about playing in what most experts consider the best conference in college football?
“When I made that decision, I knew like, hey, this is going to be the real deal,” Lemaster said. “This is the best conference to play in. This is what I’m choosing. I have to grow up, like, really fast. In college you’re playing against guys who are 20-plus years old. I’m 17 years old right now. Obviously, I’ll be a little older when I get there. I’ll be going up against guys who are in their mid-20s and they’ve been in college programs for four or five years.
“Mentally, I have to get myself locked in,” Lemaster said. “I’ve got to really focus up, I have to pick up my intensity. I went and watched games at Cincinnati, Ohio State, Kentucky and Kentucky, by far, had the most physically and high-paced game. And I have to prepare myself for that, and it starts right now in the summer. Just really getting after it and knowing I have to pick it up, otherwise, when I get there I’m not going to be up to speed.
“After I talked to my position coach at Kentucky, he’s one of the top guys there, he described it to me,” Lemaster said. “I’m going to have to play pretty early when I get there. I’m going to have to get ready pretty fast. Just by the way recruiting is going and how they’re going to graduate guys, and have guys come in, I’m just going to fall into the rotation and I’m going to have to play pretty soon. Obviously, that’s what I want to do, so I have to get myself ready for it.”
Up until the past couple of years, football hasn’t really been the sport Lemaster has enjoyed the most, he said.
“After playing on Friday nights, I always tell people, ‘there’s nothing like it,’” Lemaster said. “Unless you can have the feeling of playing under the lights in front of all the people in your community that care about you and support you, you can’t describe how amazing that feels.
“Having one more year of that, I’m just going to try and soak it all up as much as I can and make the most of it,” Lemaster said. “We have a good team. We’re hoping to get a lot of wins on the board and make a run in the playoffs. You just have to enjoy it while you can.”
Lemaster is interested in studying finance in college.