Kendall Bocard, the quarterback on Ashland’s undefeated 1958 football team and a member of the University of Kentucky’s “Thin Thirty” team, died Wednesday in Lexington. He was 79.
Bocard was known for his toughness with the Tomcats and Wildcats, where he played two seasons at UK for Charlie Bradshaw, who drove away more than 50 players with brutal practices in his first season after replacing Blanton Collier as head coach in 1962.
As a Tomcat, Bocard played quarterback and inside linebacker alongside Herb Conley on the last undefeated Ashland team until last season’s state championship run.
In 1958, Ashland went 10-0-1 with only a 18-18 tie against Huntington East the lone blemish. The Tomcats finished the season ranked No. 1 in the state coaches poll while St. Xavier was No. 1 in the Courier Journal poll. There were no state playoffs yet.
Bocard mostly handed off and blocked for running backs Conley, Dick Fillmore and Joey Layman.
“We were a helluva good football team,” Bocard said in a 2008 interview. “We were not finesse. We ran the belly series. I’d put the ball in Herbie’s belly and we’d sometimes run 10 yards before I’d pull it out. It was a good, physical football team. Kind of like that 1961 (Tomcat) basketball team.”
Fillmore’s shifty running accounted for 1,223 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 11.4 per carry. Conley was the inside power and ran for 906 yards and 16 touchdowns with 7.2 per carry.
Bocard (491 yards rushing) and Layman (459) also did their share of running. Layman scored on runs of 50, 18 ad 17 against Model during a 34-13 victory in the season-ending Recreation Bowl.
As for passing, well, it just wasn’t that kind of team. Bocard completed only 14 passes all season — nine of them going for touchdowns. Monte Campbell had 13 catches for 373 yards and eight TDs.
“We didn’t have to throw,” Bocard said. “We had a very good offensive line and with Herbie, Dick and Joey, why pass?”
Bocard was a hard-nosed runner himself and teamed with Conley as inside linebackers in a wide-tackle six scheme. They were both punishing tacklers on a physical Tomcat defense.
Ashland rushed for 3,691 yards and outscored opponents 424-97.
John Radjunas, who would become the quarterback of Ashland’s 1967 championship team, said Bocard, Conley and Fillmore were his first “Tomcat heroes.” Radjunas said he wore No. 12 “because Bocard and Joe Namath did.”
Bocard came back the following year and helped Ashland to an 8-2 season before heading to Kentucky on scholarship.
Bradshaw had played for Bryant at Kentucky and was a Bryant assistant at Alabama when he was hired to replace Collier in 1962. After the kind and gentlemanly ways of Collier, UK fans hoped Bradshaw would bring a tougher approach and his first team was know as the “Thin Thirty” after the brutal practices caused a mass exodus of players to either quit or transfer.
Bocard stuck it out and was a fullback and linebacker for the Wildcats, rushing for 160 yards and catching 10 passes for 127 yards in the 1962 season with the depleted roster. Kentucky finished 3-5-2 but stunned Tennessee 12-10 in Knoxville on a late field goal to become immortalized with fans. Collier had tied and lost to the Volunteers in his last two seasons.
Bocard rushed for 219 yards on 60 carries in the 1963 season. He came back as a graduate student and became one of UK’s first male cheerleaders.
A Life Celebration service will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Clark Legacy Center, Brannon Crossing in Nicholasville. Family and friends will meet from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.