Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman died Thursday after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 45.
Schlarman was beloved by his players and fellow coaches. He served as an inspiration, given the way he continued working through his diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts, more than two years ago. He rarely missed a practice, shuttling back and forth from Lexington to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to receive treatments.
Drake Jackson, a veteran offensive lineman, told ESPN in March that Schlarman was — and remained — the funniest person in the building.
“He has a charisma and a work ethic all coaches strive for,” Jackson said. “He’s just a complete person. It’s not fake. It’s not artificial.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops echoed those sentiments. Former offensive coordinator Neal Brown recommended he hire Schlarman, a former Kentucky player, when Stoops was forming his inaugural coaching staff more than seven years ago.
Stoops said Schlarman’s nickname, “The Great American,” was a testament to how well liked he was.
“I’m heartbroken to learn about the passing of my friend, John Schlarman,” Stoops said in a statement. “My prayers go out to LeeAnne and the kids, Joseph, Benjamin, Matthew and Evelyn, through this very difficult time.
“John was everything we all strive to be — honest, tough, fair, respected. Kentucky football won’t be the same without him but his legacy will never fade. He was a fighter and we will strive every day to honor his warrior spirit.”
Fellow assistant Vince Marrow told ESPN in March that “John Schlarman is my hero.”
Schlarman’s offensive lines were among the best in the SEC. They were semifinalists in 2016 and 2019 for the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s top offensive line.
“The UK Athletics family is in deep sorrow on the passing of John Schlarman,” UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said. “Throughout the last two years, he has been an incredible inspiration. He taught people how to live and showed all of us what it means to be courageous.
“John was a great husband and father, teacher and leader. He will be remembered for the love he had for his family, his dedication to his players and his excellence as a coach. Our prayers and heartfelt condolences are with his family and all who knew and loved him.”