Coal miner goes viral after rushing to son’s first game; receives VIP tickets to Kentucky game
(CNN) — A Kentucky coal miner who rushed straight from work to take his family to a University of Kentucky Wildcats practice game is on the shortlist for father of the year and earned praise from legendary coach John Calipari, who shared a picture of him and expressed admiration for his hard work and dedication to his son.
The photo, which has now gone viral, shows Michael McGuire and his son sitting in the stands at Saturday’s Blue-White Game scrimmage that was played in Pikeville, in Eastern Kentucky.
McGuire is still wearing his work uniform and heavy boots and his face and arms are covered in black coal dust.
Kentucky fan Sue Kinneer took the photo and posted it on several Wildcats fan pages on Facebook in hopes that someone from the coach’s staff would see it and send the little boy an autograph.
The plan worked better than she hoped and Calipari shared the photo on social media.
“My family’s American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home. From what I’ve been told, after his shift, he raced to be with his son & watch our team. Don’t know who this is, but I have tickets for him & his family at Rupp to be treated as VIPs!!,” Calipari tweeted. (The Rupp Arena is the home of the University of Kentucky basketball team.)
McGuire had not yet been identified at that point, but Kentucky fans quickly found him and connected the coach with the family.
McGuire told CNN affiliate WKYT that he was at work underground while all this was happening and had no idea any of it was going on.
“When I got out and got service on my way home, it went crazy … I couldn’t believe that it was real,” he told WKYT.
McGuire told the station that he only had about 45 minutes to get to the game when he got off work on Saturday and he didn’t want to miss his son Easton’s first basketball experience.
“It was either go straight there, or miss half the game to go home and take a shower and everything,” he told the affiliate.
He said Easton had a great time and they are now looking forward to going to a home game at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
“He had a blast. He was dancing and every time they would slam dunk it, he would go crazy,” McGuire told WKYT.
And McGuire, a lifetime Kentucky fan, got to talk with Calipari on Monday night.
“It was awesome, he was really down to earth,” McGuire told WKYT.
Calipari told reporters on Tuesday that he talked to McGuire’s wife, Mollie, first because her husband was still at work.
“And Mollie’s comment to me is, ‘My husband is humble. He’s hard-working. This is hard work, but he makes enough being there that I don’t have to work. And he’s a great father. He’s done this many times,” Calipari said.
The coach said he hopes McGuire will be a lesson for his players.
“I talked to my guys about it. It’s just a great lesson, and I showed ‘em the picture yesterday of Michael and his son, and I talked about hard, backbreaking work that’s honorable work, but that he makes time for his son, even when he knew he couldn’t shower. It didn’t matter what he looked like, he just wanted to be with his son,” Calipari said.
The McGuires haven’t decided which game they will go to, but Calipari said that hotels, restaurants and other local businesses are tripping over themselves to do something nice for them when they come to town.
“Isn’t it neat for someone like that, who is a quiet, humble guy to know people appreciate you, and we appreciate what you stand for,” Calipari told reporters. “And I appreciate it because it’s how my family got their start in this country.”
Kentucky held the Blue-White Game in Pikeville to raise money for Eastern Kentucky flood relief.