During his playing career at Kentucky (1994-98), Cameron Mills was part of two beloved national-championship teams. And during the past 16 years, he has traveled and preached in every county in the state as part of his ministry.
So it's safe to say he's intimately familiar with his homestate and the passion its people have for Kentucky Wildcats basketball.
But even Mills has never seen anything quite like what he experienced this week at Second Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
David, the Pastor here came up with a fantastic idea to keep people from sitting in the back of the church tonight. pic.twitter.com/5ls2SRBsQ9
— CAMERON MILLS (@CameronMillz) March 11, 2015
Hey, any good pastor knows his flock after all. And Pastor David Tucker knows when it comes to college hoops fandom, his congregation in southwestern Kentucky is overwhelmingly Big Blue. So with a guest preacher in town with a connection to UK, what better way to encourage his church members to fill up the front rows -- and discourage their tendency to congregate in the back -- than to tap into their dislike of the Cats' biggest rivals.
But Tucker didn't just post the UL and Duke signs in the back on Tuesday night. He went the extra mile and asked Mills for three names that Kentucky fans despise the most. Then Tucker bought some Styrofoam, printed out some faces and "executed his idea perfectly," Mills said.
This was the result:
That's right -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Duke player Christian Laettner (he of the famous shot that knocked Kentucky's "Unforgettables" out of the 1992 NCAA tournament) were propped up in the back pews to keep the congregation away.
Well, most of them anyway. There was one Louisville fan in the audience and one Duke fan. Mills said both held firm and sat next to their team's "coach" the entire night.
But even using the enemies of the state wasn't quite enough for Pastor Tucker. To encourage his congregation to move to the front of the church for their guest preacher, he made sure Kentucky coach John Calipari was sitting right up front with them.
Mills, the former 3-point specialist whose memorable trey in the 1998 Elite Eight helped UK rally from 17 down to beat hated Duke, said he wasn't distracted by the four unexpected visitors during his sermon, but said "you wouldn't believe how realistic they looked in person."
He also couldn't help but notice their curious clothing choices.
"The funniest part to me was that all four were wearing cardigans," Mills said. "I said to [Pastor Tucker], 'Where in the world did you find four cardigans in the year 2015?'
"He said, 'Oh, they're mine.'"