PILOT OAK (AP) — Richard Jackson — with his royal blue wig, zebra-striped pants, and “I Bleed UK Blue” sign — has been seen on plenty of TV screens over the last few years.
He tends to stand out, even in a sea of blue.
But many do not know how this 70-year-old cattle farmer from Pilot Oak, Ky., came to be the crazy-dressed, sign-toting fan that he is.
His love for Kentucky dates back to “forever,” which is also known as just a little bit longer than his love for his wife, whom he started dating in 1972.
Richard and Pamela fell in love, got married, and had four kids, five grandkids and two great-grand kids. They raised Watusi cattle and Siberian yaks on their land in Kentucky. And they traveled the country together watching Kentucky basketball games, sometimes in the 1973 van Jackson bought just after he met his wife. He painted it blue and white and named it “The Roamer.”
But then, in 2012, Pamela Jackson got breast cancer. And it was bad.
“I had a hard time,” she said, choking up a little as she recounted the battle.
“She fought it,” her husband added. “And she won.”
That’s when they decided to keep up the good fight, and live life with a little more zest. That meant signs and spiked blue wigs and zebra pants and shiny blue ties and all.
Jackson’s first sign was “26-0.” He toted it Rupp Arena in 2015. That was the year Kentucky climbed to 38-0 before a crushing Final Four defeat to Wisconsin. ESPN showed a photo of him on TV when the sign read 34-0.
“I carried that sign all the way to Indianapolis, and the Final Four,” he said, noting that ESPN showed him and his sign again last year despite UK’s early, second-round NCAA exit to Indiana.
Last year, he also made a new sign “Look at my veins I bleed UK blue,” because he wanted something different for the SEC Tournament. He carried that one all the way to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2016 — and then again to Rupp Arena, Kentucky’s home court, half a dozen times this season.
Signs aren’t his only gig. Jackson also has custom-made shirts. He brought two with him to Nashville for this year’s SEC Tournament.
The back of one shirt is painted with an eyeball and blue blood drops (“I bleed UK blue,” get it?!). Another has a big UK embroidered on the back with the SEC Tournament logo on the front.
“Most people think I’m crazy, I guess. Hey, I enjoy it,” Richard Jackson said. “Some people golf, some people fish. I love going to Kentucky ballgames.”
And so does his wife, though she jokes that she “tries to hide” when someone wants to take a photo. “I am not much of a camera person.”
She’s also not much of a wig person. The cancer has something to do with that.
“I didn’t wear them then, and I don’t want to wear them now,” Pamela Jackson, 64, said with a chuckle.
But, occasionally, she acquiesces and puts on some blue and white hair and holds a sign that says “I (asterisk)heart(asterisk) UK.”
The couple will follow their team as far as the team will take them. Right now, to Nashville. In a few weeks, hopefully, to the NCAA finals in Phoenix. If not there, no worries, they have other excursions planned, too.
They booked a trip just yesterday to Germany. But it’s not until September — so they won’t miss any basketball.