Sharing the Spirit: UK Alum Reflects on Being First Student EVER in eRUPPtion Zone

Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing.  Special thanks to UK Athletics for footage of the 2002-03 season.

When John Astle drove to Lexington from his home state of North Carolina to tour the University of Kentucky campus in 2001, he just had a gut feeling that made his college decision an easy one.

"I really knew right then that this was my Big Blue family," Astle said.  "This was a place where I could be away from people that I’ve always known but where I would make some really awesome memories." 

But the then-high school senior probably did not realize one of those memories would be carving out a place in UK Basketball history. 

Fast forward to November 2002.  It was decided that UK would create a new place for students to cheer on the Men's Basketball team in Rupp Arena, called the "eRUPPtion Zone."  The section would make its debut for UK's matchup with Athletes in Action on Nov. 11, 2002.

Astle, now a freshman political science major had heard talk of the new standing student section and was excited to check it out. 

"It was going to be my first UK game as a student, so I got there a couple hours early," Astle said.  "I ended up being first in line!" 

That meant he was the very first student to ever stand in the now famous "eRUPPtion Zone."

"Once I got down there, I loved it," he said.  "I would look over at the other sections and think, 'what are you doing, stand up and cheer!'"

The section became his favorite place to cheer on the Cats for the rest of his time at UK.   While he made memories as a fan at each and every game, Astle says he is most proud of the lessons he learned as a student both inside and outside of the classroom. 

"My time at UK was awesome," Astle said.  "It prepared me for everything.   There are days when I look back at classes, and I don’t even look back to classes from high school or even law school as I much as I think back to some of the memorable professors and friends and experiences that I had here at UK."

Astle now works for BB&T in Lumberton, N.C.  He says his experience of juggling schoolwork, student activities and yes, even UK Basketball games helps him today as a professional. 

"I was involved in a lot of student organizations and you’ve got to study and make time, so it really teaches you time management," said Astle.  "I think I learned a lot of time management skills that are helpful for me in my current job by balancing so many great things that there are to do at UK."

Even though he lives in what some UK fans consider "rival territory" in North Carolina, Astle says he wears his (royal) blue and white with pride.

"I am so proud of my degree from UK, and I am very proud to tell people that I am a UK alum because I think that a degree here from UK can help you get anywhere in the whole world," Astle said.

 As for his place in Big Blue Nation history, he joins his father, also a UK graduate, in being able to make a claim.

"My dad watched Adolph Rupp’s last game as the UK coach, and he always has told me about that," Astle said.   "So maybe one day I can tell my kids, 'hey I was the first student in the eRUPPtion Zone.'  It's not a huge thing but it’s a memorable thing for me that I am part of UK Basketball history in some small way." 

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