Go big, or go home; Receiver Hardley Gilmore of Florida reclassifies to get to UK a year early

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Contributing writer

If you are going to dream, why not dream big.

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That’s exactly why Kentucky football commit Hardley Gilmore of Pahokee, Florida, is doing, too.

“I think I can be the greatest wide receiver to play the game,” the four-star receiver who is ranked among the nation’s top 300 players, said. “I am a sponge. I soak up everything I can to try and get better.”

He’s so anxious to get to college to start his career that he reclassified from the 2025 to the 2024 recruiting class even though he was only 16 when he made that decision last summer. He’s now doing dual enrollment high school classes to earn college credit and says Kentucky’s staff has done a good job guiding him on his academic pursuits.

“I reclassified in June. Kentucky had me as a priority (recruit) and Lexington is a football town,” he said. “They are going to move me around inside and outside to get me the ball and let me make plays. I have played varsity football since eighth grade and I just thought I needed to get to Kentucky a year early, let the coaches develop me and then dominate.”

He’s already been talking to current UK receivers Dane Key, Barion Key and Anthony Brown-Stephens about what college football is like.

“I want a chance to compete with guys like that and show my talent while also learning from them,” he said.

He’s talked with UK quarterback commit Cutter Boley after the two met on his visit in June.

“He encouraged me a lot. I watched him play and he is a really good player,” Gilmore said. “I was already locked in with Kentucky but he just made that bond even stronger.”

He’s also close with running back Tovani Mizell, a running back from Florida also committed to UK.

“Me and his little brother were on the same track team. His little brother broke the national record in the 4×100 relay in AAU,” Gilmore said. “We visited (UK) the same weekend. He told me a week or two before he committed and I told him then my decision was also made even though I didn’t announce it.”

The 6-1, 175-pound Gilmore was third in the state long jump last year in Florida and also placed sixth in the 800-meter run — an event sprinters/receivers normally don’t run.

“My fastest time in the 800 in 1:56 and my fastest in the 40 so far is 4.6 but I can go faster,” he said. “The 800 is almost a sprint now and I like having to really push myself in that event because it’s tough. I think it helps me with my stamina in football because I usually play all four quarters.”

He likes defense and says he has played safety and cornerback.

“It’s about 50-50 with me on offense and defense. I like playing receiver and I can get open. I have the athleticism to be that inside receiver or I can move outside,” he said. “But I also like the aggression on defense and making plays at cornerback or safety.”

He has offers from Penn State, Texas A&M, Central Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Miami (Fla.), Florida State and others but felt from the start UK made him a “main priority and locked in” on him.

“I didn’t know too much about him (Liam Coen) but then I did my research and he’s up there with the great offensive coaches and everybody on that staff is a great person. They are going to make sure you are alright,” Gilmore, who will enroll at UK in January, said. “Everybody at Kentucky is just cool. It was a great vibe and I wanted to go where I was the main priority and would have a chance to play early and show who I am.”