By LARRY VAUGHT
Ten years ago former University of Kentucky receiver/defensive back Anthony “Champ” Kelly was the offensive coordinator for Lexington Christian. Today he’s the assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos and headed to his first Super Bowl in New York where the Broncos will play Seattle. Kelly’s climb to this position has numerous Kentucky connections. Not only was he Lexington Christian’s offensive coordinator, but he worked for Nurse’s Registry and Home Health and IBM, both in Lexington. Kelly played with the Lexington Horsemen, an arena football league team, from 2003-06 and was a two-time all-star. He was named general manager and wide receivers coach for the Horsemen in 2007.
He started as an assistant coordinator of pro and college scouting with Denver and has been in his current position for four years.
Kelly, 34, says helping Denver get to a Super Bowl “basically validates that time, effort and hard work pays” because that’s what he’s always done with every job he’s had.
“I was joking with my wife (Stephanie) the other day saying that when she was dreaming of weddings and wedding dresses, I was dreaming of making the big play in the Super Bowl. Although I never got a chance to play in the NFL, I am still able to realize a dream from another angle. Ultimately, God’s will be done – not Champ Kelly’s. But, He always provides me with ‘immeasurably more.’”
Kelly’s work certainly has put a stamp on the Denver roster as he has been responsible for scouting and evaluating many players on the current roster.
“Through my years as a scout, I’ve learned that successful football programs have successful departments (coaching, scouting, marketing, PR, security, etc). It takes a singular focus on one goal and quality work from every department and person to achieve that goal,” Kelly said. “Our executive vice-president John Elway expects us to perform at a level that will produce World Championships, and that is what we aim to do.
“As far as player development, when you have great coaching and tremendous leadership from polished vets, players can’t help but develop. Our players feed off of each other’s energy and they hold each other accountable. No one wants to let his teammate down. That type of commitment and competition from the starters to the practice squad players produces development and wins.”
Kelly says the Super Bowl is “definitely” on the highlights of his football career.
“But don’t forget, I was a player on the Lexington Horsemen Indoor football team that won a National Championship …lol,” Calipari said. It honestly really hasn’t set-in yet. I was able to grab my daughter from the stands after the game and allow her to partake in the ceremony and confetti drop. That was my highlight. Of course, she isn’t even 2 yet, so she was more focused on Miles our mascot .. lots of luck.”
Kelly said he is “extremely proud” that former UK players Jacob Tamme, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan have all played key roles for Denver’s success this season.
“Everyone knows that I’m a diehard UK guy. However, I’m more proud of the type of men Woodyard, Tamme and Trevathan have become. They are Godly men who have carried themselves with tremendous character on and off the field,” Kelly said. “They all have faced adversity and hardships on various levels. And, each of them continue to persevere. But we have 53 active players, eight practice squad players and several guys on IR (injured reserve) that I’m proud to watch achieve. It is a special group of men.”
Kelly is already busy with free agency and the upcoming NFL draft and expects to spend much of his time in New York this week “reviewing” game film.
“But I’m definitely going to enjoy this time with my co-workers and family while staying focused. Our task is not complete yet,” Kelly said.
One thing the Broncos’ success won’t change is the C.H.A.M.P. Camp, annual camps Kelly hosts to help youngsters get quality coaching and life advice. His annual camp in Lexington will be June 20-21.
“We are going to add some new wrinkles and new coaches. We are going to do a little more diversification between age groups so that we can get a little more specific with the younger kids and advanced with the older kids,” Kelly said. “There are other Wildcats achieving, too, besides the ones on the Broncos.
“Former Wildcat quarterback Mark Perry was just named the head coach of Lexington Catholic. He has been a great friend and loyal C.H.A.M.P. Camp coach. I’m sure he will have his entire team on hand. Mike Harmon at Tates Creek coached me and coached with me at the Horsemen. Paul Raines, the head coach at Dunbar, and I worked together at Lexington Christian Academy. I’m sure (Henry Clay’s) Sam Simpson and (Bryan Station’s) Frank Parks, who have hosted the camp in years past, will have their boys there.
“I’m grateful of my Kentucky relationships and I look forward to working with these great men to see how we can better serve the youth. I really want this to be a community event and staple in Lexington. We have had great sponsors in the past and rely on generous donations in order to make this camp completely free. For more information on Heart Power and the C.H.A.M.P. Camp or general suggestions, visit www.heartpowerinc.org.”