LEXINGTON, Ky. — Darius West has taken his game to new heights this college football season, including a video board high above Times Square this week.
West, a starting safety for the University of Kentucky from Lima Central Catholic High School, is one of several Wildcats being featured on the video board at 45th and Broadway on the Viacom Building in New York City to promote No. 9 UK’s game against No. 6 Georgia on Saturday.
The winner of that game will clinch the Southeastern Conference East Division and will play either Alabama or LSU for the SEC championship on Dec. 1.
Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC) could be headed for its best season since the 1977 team went 10-1 and West has been a major contributor to the Wildcats’ success this fall.
He leads Kentucky in tackles (58) and interceptions (3) and is tied for the team lead in pass break-ups with six. He blocked a field goal in the first half of UK’s 15-14 win over Missouri last week and he scored a touchdown on a 40-yard run after recovering a fumble against Texas A&M in the Wildcats’ only loss.
Kentucky has won only two SEC football championships – in 1976 and in 1950, when Bear Bryant was its coach. Since the SEC split into divisions in 1992 it has never won a division title.
Georgia is a 12-point favorite on Saturday but if the Wildcats would win, they’re in the SEC championship game. Kentucky and Georgia both own the tie-breaker against Florida, the third place team in the SEC East, because of beating the Gators.
After Saturday’s game Kentucky will finish its season with an SEC game at Tennessee (3-5) on Nov. 10 and non-league games against Middle Tennessee (5-3) and Louisville (2-6).
“It’s great to be in a position where we control our own destiny,” West said.
West said there is a different attitude in Kentucky football this season after going 7-6 last season, which ended with a 24-23 loss to Northwestern in the Music City Bowl.
“After the bowl game last year it was like a different attitude for us. We’re more mature, we’ve got a lot of seniors,” West said.
“In the summer everybody amped up their work, everybody worked a little harder. I tried to do a little more. I’m trying to be more focused this year.”
West started in 2017 as a junior and was third on the team in tackles after a injuries limited him his first three years in college.
Age and experience, along with playing at a high level, have made him more of a leader, too.
“Being here five years, seeing all the changes and the opportunity we have here, with it being my last year I want to do my best. It means a lot to be a leader. It motivates me to be a better teammate,” West said.
Earlier this season, Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity praised West’s leadership skills to CatsPause.com.
“Darius is our rock. D-West is the man on defense. If D-West says do something, you do it. Darius is always the guy who makes the play,” he said.
Once he has made his final play for Kentucky, West has his sights set on the NFL. But before that, he wants to finish this season on a high note.
“I want to do what I have to do to get to the next level, but I’m just excited about what we’re doing at Kentucky right now,” he said.