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By LARRY VAUGHT
Camp participation was up substantially to almost 300 youngsters at the C.H.A.M.P. Camp, but that didn’t surprise camp director Champ Kelly.
“I am a dreamer. I don’t really believe in the impossible,” said Kelly, a former University of Kentucky player and current assistant director of personnel with the Denver Broncos. “When I envisioned this camp, I envisioned this and more. I want us to have a facility where we have to have two or three football fields and I am running between fields sweating to instruct different kids. That’s the vision I have.
“I want every school in Lexington to send kids here. That is what we are working for and we will get there because the caliber of coaches we have here is unparalleled. We are not here to compete with other camps. We are here to provide another avenue to help a child and invest in a kid so one day he can beat the odds and be great. We might be coaching the next president. That’s the kind of stuff we believe in.”
Kelly’s camp, part of Heart Power, Inc. — an organization that supports youth and their families while encouraging positive influences on their lives — was at Henry Clay High School Friday and Saturday. It was free for youngsters, just like camps he has in Denver and his native Florida.
He had two current NFL players — Charlotte tackle Garry Williams and Tennessee punter Brett Kern — at camp Friday. He had Denver tight end Jacob Tamme scheduled Saturday. Former UK head coach Guy Morriss and former UK assistant Steve Ortmayer was there. So was former UK All-American Derek Abney and a bevvy of former UK players and high school coaches.
“Guys came strictly for the opportunity to give back. I didn’t have to force them or call multiple times. They are not paid and a lot are missing work to hopefully impact at least one child,” Kelly said. “That is just a testament to type of guys we have here. Not just the UK guys. This is not a UK camp. This is not a UK function. This is not a Denver Broncos function. This is the C.H.A.M.P. Camp and these guys are part of it. They all just want to give back.”
Kelly, who played for the Lexington Horsemen from 2003-2006 and was offensive coordinator at Lexington Christian from 2002-2006, shared other insights on a variety of subjects during a break in camp Friday.
Question: What kind of year did Boyle County native and former UK star Tamme have in his first season with Denver?
Kelly: “Jacob did a great job. He is a great person. My job is to evaluate guys and get them there, but I knew plenty about him before he even came to the Broncos (as a free agent from Indianapolis). We are excited to have him there and excited he is coming here to speak to the kids. More important than what he does with the Broncos, he loves giving back to the community and the kids. He’s here in Lexington playing in a charity golf tournament and he is going to swing by and talk to these kids. He loves Kentucky. He is just a great guy all-around, and Jacob does whatever he can for any community, including Denver, that has invested in him.”
Question: Since he’s not the biggest, strongest or fastest tight end, what allows him to be effective and stay in the league?
Kelly: “To be a NFL player today, you have to be intelligent. You have to be accountable and reliable, some of the same principles we are working to teach in our camp. Jacob embodies that. He is smart. He knows where to be. He is accountable. He is always on time. He is dependable. Whenever there is a route called, he knows where to be at and he makes the play. He’s responsible.”
Question: Are you surprised Williams, another former UK star, came back to the camp again?
Kelly: “Garry Williams has been in the NFL for five years and could be working at any camp right now and he is here at the C.H.A.M.P. Camp working for free. We are not paying him anything, but he wants to be here coaching. He didn’t just come here to speak. He’s coaching these kids about life. He is the kind of guy we love.Brett Kern, the starting punter for the Tennessee Titans, is down here working with tight ends because he wants to invest in the kids just like Garry does.”
Question: How well have former UK linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan done in Denver?
Kelly: “Wesley and Danny do a great job for the Broncos and we are excited to have them. Wesley is one of the highest character guys around in any genre. He is just a great person. He has been a captain for the Broncos and I am excited about the opportunity he has with us. Danny came in and did a great job last year, and we are happy to have him.”
Question: Does all the buzz around new coach Mark Stoops and Kentucky football surprise you?
Kelly: “ I am not surprised at what has happened at Kentucky. I think the administration has done a great job of recognizing that in order to be competitive in this conference, you have to make certain changes and sacrifices. Nothing against (former coach) Joker (Phillips) and his staff, but I am excited about the youth and excitement we have around this city right now.
“I am also excited about (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown. Per NCAA ruling, he can’t be out here with the kids. But I know 100 percent he supports me and wanted to come. He called and wished us luck and said wished he could see us. I am always happy to see him, John Schlarman be successful because they are great people and are accountable. Whatever they say, is basically gospel. That is why they are getting great recruits like they are.”