This year marks the 110th anniversary of the first football meeting between Louisville and Kentucky. The Governor’s Cup was played six times between 1912 and 1924 before play was suspended for 70 years. During that time, the Wildcats outplayed the Cardinals 210-0.
It wasn’t until the Governor’s Cup resumed in Lexington on September 3, 1994 that the Cardinals scored for the first time against the Wildcats. Tailback Anthony Shelman dove into the end zone from 1 yard to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter. Louisville eventually fell 20-14 to UK, the Wildcats’ only win of the year. The Cardinals would not get their first win over the Wildcats until next year.
Shelman’s name will forever be engraved in Governor’s Cup history, an honor he’s still proud of nearly 30 years later. From the pre-game hype and excitement to his goal, here’s what Shelman had to say about the 1994 Governor’s Cup:
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NOTE: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Alexis Cubit: How do you remember that game because it’s obviously been 70 years since Louisville and Kentucky football played?
Anthony Shelman: There was a lot of hype surrounding the game. I remember like yesterday and walking in there was talk about U of L never scoring against Kentucky so it was a big wide rivalry that weekend. It was a struggle. They scored first but we came back and scored. It went back and forth. And then I remember in the fourth quarter we drove to get the lead and our quarterback threw an interception and that ended our hopes in the fourth quarter, but I was kind of upset that we didn’t keep the ball going because I had a lot of success in the second half running the ball against them. They couldn’t stop me and I ran hard but we chose to blow up with our passing coach (Howard Schnellenberger) and we had an interception with a minute left in the game and that’s how they won the game .
AC: Walk me through your scoring game because it looked like you were floating in mid-air there. What do you remember?
HOW: I just remember when they called it it was 34 dive, 34 lead. I remember (Kentucky) had a security guard named Melvin Johnson and he said he would stop me. It was in a newspaper earlier this week. We were down on the goal line and I remembered nobody had scored. I made it my intention to make sure that I get airborne and I’m airborne, that I’m going to jump the offensive line because, yeah, I jumped the whole line, the D-line, for the touchdown to achieve. Actually, I jumped over Melvin Johnson, the security. lucky no 25. And that was the first score. I remember like yesterday the fans were loud for U of L. We were playing in Kentucky but our fan zone, they were really making noise and that was the Battle of the Bluegrass. And yes, I just jumped clear like everyone else.
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AC: Did you really think about it at the time, or did it take a while after the game to realize that you were the very first Cardinal to score against Kentucky?
HOW: It took me years to adjust because I had to think about it. i’m like wow No field gate. It wasn’t just that that dawned on me – because you have to imagine that in the early 1920’s segregation still existed. And not just being the first person to score against them. It was an African American. So that rush was like the first African American (to) hit for a U of L player against Kentucky was huge and significant after I thought about it, but I didn’t understand the significance of that until how much later how crucial and important. That’s a part of history that can never be broken. So that is very meaningful.
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AC: You just brought it up, but now that you think about it, what does it mean to you to know that you’re playing that role in the story?
HOW: You know, it’s monumental, especially at the time when U of L played Kentucky early in the series and we didn’t score. Back in the 1900s, early 20s, it was legal segregation. Then resuming the series in 1994 and then having an African American player on it, I’m so proud of that achievement. That means a lot. Very, very proud moment in the history of the series against UK. I wish the game had ended better, but there is still an important moment.
AC: Speaking of the result, in a way you’re glad you wrote this story, but on the other hand, Louisville also lost. How do you balance the bittersweetness of it?
HOW: I balance it with the fact that I knew we had a chance to win that game because that year it was the only game Britain had won against us in 1994. They didn’t win another game and it was kind of disheartening but getting some candy or lemonade out of what you might say in this situation is history was made for the university and I was a part of it. For me it’s just monumental. That’s a record that could never be broken. So bittersweet? Yes we lost, but back then for our university, especially for African Americans who play varsity sport, it was a defining moment in the history of U of L and UK series that will last forever.
AC: You mentioned that Louisville wasn’t a topic of conversation earlier this game week, other than that the rivalry was back. Was that the focus for you, or how did you just step into this game where you didn’t just want to win, you wanted to start scoring?
HOW: We looked at that and thought: wow, we’re going to pay the UK this year. There wasn’t much footage to watch as it was early 20’s. We had (no) film to really explore other films than other films from other games, but we hadn’t played them. We looked at the numbers and we were like, wow man. They surpassed us like we didn’t even score. That was just a huge motivating factor for our team, that we really wanted to score. We went into this game with the attitude that we were going to win. Not only collect points, but we would win. We were definitely full of energy and motivation for the upcoming game. It was a swing battle.
AC: Did you talk to Melvin after you scored? have you ever bonded with him
HOW: We were both at the NFL Combine. I saw him there and we talked about it. He said, ‘Yes, I had you.’ That’s a big part of the story. We talked about it briefly and he recounted how he almost stopped me but I clearly skipped. His number is 25. If you see the picture he is below me and I am stepping over him.
AC: What are your thoughts on the rivalry over the past few years?
HOW: Under coach (Scott) Satterfield I don’t think we’ve won yet. It’s really important to me that we get one under our belt because they’re starting to charge again where we haven’t won in the last four years. It’s very important for recruitment and for the state that we win. We must. Kentucky is pretty good this year, but we had some upsets with Wake Forest and I’m excited for the Cardinals to triumph this week when we play them. We need to dub this series a little bit more because they’ve brought out the best in us over the last three or four years.
AC: And then your son, DeVante Parker, went to Louisville too. How exciting was it for you to make him a second-generation cardinal?
HOW: I signed with Seattle after I left college, and then I got signed with the New Orleans Saints, and DeVante went even further. He was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and knows the legacy. He always wanted to be a U of L Cardinal. I tried to get him to explore other options, but his heart was set on going to Louisville. As a child he used to watch me play. He continued to audition. I have another son, Khei’Sean Walker, who lives in Louisville. He’s in a little school down in Kentucky now, but he’s going to be transferring, so let’s hope to get some big things out of him pretty soon.
Alexis Cubit, Louisville-based author of soccer, women’s basketball and baseball bats, can be reached at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.