Longtime Kentucky assistant coach John Schlarman dies at age 45

Sam Cooper
·3-min read

Kentucky assistant coach John Schlarman has died after a two-year bout with cancer. He was 45.

Schlarman was an all-SEC offensive lineman for the Wildcats from 1994-97 who later became the offensive line coach at his alma mater in 2013. He served in that role for eight years, and did not miss a game until UK’s most recent two games this season even after his diagnosis in the summer of 2018.

Schlarman’s final appearance on a Kentucky sideline came on Oct. 17 at Tennessee. UK won the game 34-7 for the program’s first win in Knoxville since 1984.

After the win, Schlarman was given the game ball in the postgame locker room.

“I’m heartbroken to learn about the passing of my friend, John Schlarman. My prayers go out to LeeAnne and the kids, Joseph, Benjamin, Matthew and Evelyn, through this difficult time,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. "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."

Schlarman coached the last two seasons while receiving treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, cancer that forms in the bile ducts.

“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,” UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said.

Schlarman was a member of Stoops’ original staff at Kentucky in 2013, helping play a big role in the program’s rebuild. The Wildcats had a losing record in Stoops’ first three seasons, but have played in four consecutive bowl games in the years since. UK’s 2018 season was a triumph. The Wildcats reached the 10-win mark for the first time since 1977 and beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.

In recent seasons, Kentucky has been led by a stellar run game, thanks to Schlarman’s offensive lines. Five of Schlarman’s linemen have received all-SEC honors with guards Logan Stenberg and Bunchy Stallings earning All-America honors.

As a player, Schlarman was a four-year starter for the Wildcats. He then coached at the high school level before becoming a graduate assistant at UK from 2000-02. From there, he became a high school head coach before landing a job as the offensive line coach at Troy from 2007-12. At Troy, he helped eight players earn first-team All-Sun Belt honors. The Trojans won two outright Sun Belt titles during Schlarman’s tenure.

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