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 the game was suspended for 70 years. In that time, the Wildcats outscored the Cardinals 210-0.
It wasn’t until the Governor’s Cup resumed on Sept. 3, 1994 in Lexington that the Cardinals scored for the first time against the Wildcats. Tailback Anthony Shelman dove into the end zone from 1 yard out to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter. Louisville eventually fell to UK 20-14, the Wildcats’ lone win that year. The Cardinals wouldn’t get their first win over the Wildcats until the next year.
Shelman’s name will forever be etched into the Governor’s Cup history, an honor he still takes pride in almost 30 years later. From the hype and excitement leading up the game to the moment he scored, 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: What do you remember about that game because obviously it had been 70 years something since Louisville and Kentucky had played in football?
Anthony Shelman: It was a lot of hype around the game. I remember like yesterday and going in, there was talk about that U of L never scored any points against Kentucky, so it was a big, wide rivalry that weekend. It was a battle. They scored first, but we came back and scored. It was going back and forth. And then I remember that in the fourth quarter, we were driving to take the lead and our quarterback threw an interception and that ended our hopes in the fourth quarter, but I was kind of upset we didn’t continue to run the ball because I had a lot of success in the second half of running the ball against them. They couldn’t stop me and I was running hard, but we elected to go to the air with our pass-happy coach (Howard Schnellenberger) and we had an interception with a minute-something left in the game and that’s how they won the game.
AC: Walk me through your scoring play because it looked like you were suspended in midair there. What do you remember about that?
AS: I just remember when they called it, it was 34 Dive, 34 Lead. I remember that (Kentucky) had a safety named Melvin Johnson and he said he would stop me. It was in a paper earlier in that week. We were down on the goal line, and I remembered that nobody had scored. I made it my intention that I was gonna make sure I got in the air and airborne that I was going to jump over the offensive line because, yeah, I jumped over the whole line, the D-line in order to score the touchdown. Actually, I jumped over Melvin Johnson, the safety. Lucky No. 25. And that was the first score. I remember like yesterday, the fans were loud for U of L. We were playing at Kentucky but our fan zone, they were really making noise and that was the Battle of the Bluegrass. And yeah, I just jumped clearly like over everybody.
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AC: Did you really think about that in the moment or did it take a while after the game to realize you were the first-ever Cardinal to score against Kentucky?
AS: It took years to settle in because I had to think about it. I’m like, wow. No field goal. It dawned on me not only that — because you’ve got to figure segregation still was happening in early 20s. 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) score for U of L player against Kentucky was huge and momentous after I reflect on it, but I didn’t grasp all the meaning of that until like a lot afterwards to how pivotal and important. That’s a part of history that can never be broken. So that’s very meaningful.
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AC: You touched on it just now but when you think back on it now, what does that mean to you to know that you have that part in history?
AS: You know, it’s monumental, especially in the time that U of L was playing Kentucky early in the series, and we hadn’t scored a point. At that time, the 1900s, early 20s, it was legal segregation. Then to have the series resume in ’94 then to have an African American player to do that, I’m so proud of that accomplishment. It means a lot. Very, very proud moment in history for the series against UK. I wish the game would have been a better outcome but there’s still a significant moment.
AC: Speaking of the outcome, in one aspect, you’re happy that you made that history, but then also, Louisville did lose. How do you balance the bittersweetness of it?
AS: I balance it with the fact that knowing that we had an opportunity to win that game because that year, that was the only game UK had won was against us in ’94. They didn’t win another game and it kind of was disheartening, but to bring out of some, as you want to say some sweetness or lemonade in that situation, is that history was made for the university and I was a part of that. For me, it’s just monumental. That is a record that could never be broken. So, bittersweet? Yeah, we lost, but at the time for our university, especially for African Americans playing collegiate sports, that was a defining moment in the U of L and UK series in history that will last forever.
AC: You mentioned that being a talking point of Louisville hadn’t scored in addition to the rivalry being back, earlier in that game week. Was that the focus for you guys, or how did y’all just kind of go into that game of wanting to not only win but start by scoring?
AS: We looked at that and we were like, Wow, we’re gonna pay UK this year.’ There was not a lot of footage that we could look at because it was in the early 20s. We (didn’t have) film to really scout other than other film from other games, but we hadn’t played them. We looked at the numbers and we’re like, wow man. They outscored us, like, we didn’t even score points. That was just a huge motivating factor for our team that we definitely wanted to score points in that. We went in that game with the mindset that we would win. Not only score points, but we would win. We were definitely energized and motivated for the upcoming game. It was a seesaw battle.
AC: Did you talk to Melvin after you scored? Did you ever connect with him?
AS: We were both at the NFL Combine. I saw him there and we talked about it. He was like, ‘Yeah, I had you.’ That’s a massive part of history. We talked about it briefly and he talked about how he almost stopped me, but clearly I had jumped over. His number is 25. If you see the picture, he’s underneath me and I’m going over top of him.
AC: What are your thoughts on the rivalry over the past few years?
AS: Under Coach (Scott) Satterfield, I don’t think we’ve won yet. I’s really important that we get one under our belt because they’re starting to streak again to where we haven’t won the last four years. It’s very important for recruiting and the state that we pull out a win. We have to. Kentucky’s pretty good this year, but we’ve had some upsets with Wake Forest and I’m looking forward to the Cardinals coming out triumphant this week when we play them. We got to sync up that series a little bit more because they’ve gotten the best of us in the last three or four years.
AC: And then your son, DeVante Parker, went to Louisville, too. How exciting was that for you to have him be that second-generation Cardinal?
AS: I signed with Seattle coming out of college and then I got signed to New Orleans Saints and DeVante went further. He was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, and he knows the legacy. He was always wanting to be a U of L Cardinal. I tried to get him to explore other opportunities but his heart was set on going to Louisville. As a kid, he used to watching me play all the time. He continued to audition. I have another son, Khei’Sean Walker, who’s in Louisville. He’s going to a small school down in Kentucky now but he’s going to be transferring so hopefully we have some big things coming out of him pretty soon.
Reach Louisville football, women’s basketball and baseball beat writer Alexis Cubit at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @Alexis_Cubit.
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