PIKEVILLE, Ky. — University of Kentucky basketball fans packed a gym in eastern Kentucky for the team's annual Blue-White Game last weekend, but one family in attendance has attracted nationwide attention.
Like many kids across Kentucky, Micheal Joe McGuire's Wildcat fandom goes back to his childhood.
"I was a little boy, growing up watching with my dad. Never did miss a game, watching on TV," McGuire told WLEX.
When McGuire's wife, Mollie, found out the Blue-White Game would be played in their hometown of Pikeville, she saw an opportunity to surprise her family.
"I hopped on and grabbed some tickets, because I knew it was important to him and his dad. I thought it would be a great experience for him to share with our son," she said.
Micheal has worked as a roof bolter in a coal mine for about a year. He ended up working late Saturday and had to go straight from the mine, covered in soot, to the arena to meet up with his wife and their 3-year-old son, Easton.
Easton was mesmerized by the action.
"Pretty much anybody that dunked the ball was his favorite," Mollie said.
Someone took a picture of Micheal and Easton at the game, remarking on how much respect they had for the father, running straight from work to bring his son to the game. The Facebook post of the picture took off.
While Mollie's phone was buzzing with the family's new-found popularity, it didn't take long for the photo to reach Kentucky head coach John Calipari himself. He shared the photo on social media and talked about his own family's background in the mines.
"My family's American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home," he wrote.
"The phone rang and I had no clue who it was," Mollie said. "I answered and he was, like, 'Hey! It's Coach Cal!' and I just sat there, like, 'Uhhh.' It was a complete shock."
The coach invited the McGuires to any game at Rupp Arena this year to be treated like VIPs.
"It's been wonderful for him to see it's not just us, everyone appreciates it. It's hard work. It's a blessing," Mollie said of her husband.
Most of all, it's an opportunity to pass on old traditions.
"Family means everything to me and I just wanted to make sure that they would have that memory, just like MIcheal and his dad share," Mollie said.
The family hasn't yet picked which game they'll attend for their big day.