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By LARRY VAUGHT
It wasn’t hard for Randall Cobb to explain why he was back in Lexington Thursday speaking at Champ’s Camp at Bryan Station High School to about 150 players and coaches, including a bevvy of former University of Kentucky football stars like himself.
“I felt it was important to come give back to this camp. All Champ (Kelly) had to do was call me. He knows me and knew if he asked, I would be here if I could,” said Cobb, who is getting set for his second season with the Green Bay Packers. “I knew Champ from going through the draft and he helped me with that whole process, so I was glad to help him out.”
Cobb finished his three-year UK career with 144 catches for 1,661 yards and 13 touchdowns, 228 rushes for 1,313 yards and 22 scores, 44 kick returns for 1,081 yards, 63 punt returns for 619 yards and two touchdowns and 62 pass completions for 689 yards and five scores. Cobb led Kentucky with 955 yards receiving, 401 yards rushing and 12 total touchdowns in 2010 before leaving after his junior season to enter the NFL. He set UK’s all-time record with 37 touchdowns and was a consensus all-Southeastern Conference pick in 2009 and 2010 and an all-American in 2010.
This camp is put on by Kelly, a former UK receiver who is now assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos. He puts on a camp in Denver as well as one in Florida where he’s from along with the one at Bryan Station that emphasizes not only football skills, but life skills and makes sure it is affordable for any youngster.
Kelly smiled broadly Thursday as he told the youngsters about Cobb.
“He was not a good player. He was a great player at Kentucky,” said Kelly. “He came here today for you. He chose to be with you when he could be anywhere in the world because he wants you to be a success, too.”
Kelly explained his job with the Broncos is to find the “best football players in the world” and that the Broncos want players who are smart, tough, dependable, respectful and a good teammate.
“I asked the coaches at Kentucky about Randall and they all said he came in and worked his tail off on the football field but also in the class room. They said he was a respectful, good person,” Kelly said. “They talked about how he even spread positive messages about UK football on social media.”
Cobb, a second round draft pick of the Packers, ranked 12th among rookie wide receivers with 25 catches for 375 yards last year, but his 108-yard kickoff return for a score in the season-opening game was voted NFL Play of the Year.
Cobb, 21, told the campers he was “honored” to be speaking to them and it was only “six or seven years ago” he was sitting at camps wondering about his dreams and future.
“You are the stars of tomorrow. I see ability, but you have to work daily like champs,” Cobb, who also did an autograph signing in Lexington Thursday night, said. “The most important thing is how hard you work. Competitiveness breeds success. You’ve got to push yourself daily. Do not take anything lightly. It’s all about pushing to get better every day.
“I was in a camp like this listening six or seven years ago. Now I am here talking. We all have dreams, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t seriously chase that dream by working as hard as you can. Go out every day and compete. The reason I come to camps like this to talk is because if just one of you achieves your dream like I did, then it is all worthwhile to me.”
He also revealed that he had met with an academic advisor at UK before coming to the camp and had picked up a book he needed for a summer class because he intends to finish work on his degree. “Education is important to me. You can never forget your education,” Cobb said. “The more you know, the better you will be.”
The youngsters had numerous questions for Cobb to answer — as well as autograph request before Kelly sent them back on the field:
— How cold is it in Green Bay? “It got pretty cold. Our last game it was 12 degrees, but I have heard about games where it was negative 30. You just have to block it out. I hate the cold. I didn’t want to go to a cold-weather team, but I’ll take it because I love Green Bay.”
— What is his greatest game? “My freshman year in college when we played Arkansas and were down 14 points in the fourth quarter and came back to win.”
— What is playing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers like? “He makes the game much easier. He is a leader and does all the little things to make people around him better.”
— Why did he go to Kentucky? “Because Kentucky was the first school to believe in me and everything I thought I could be. I was loyal to them.”
— How hard was he hit last year? “I did not get hit that hard. I fall down when I am getting ready to be hit. I got hit pretty good in Atlanta on a punt return. I heard the crowd before I got hit and knew it was coming.”
— How nervous does he get before a game? “I get more nervous for something like this than I do for a game.”