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His purpose is simple — put on an informative, entertaining football camp for youth ages 10-17 that costs the participants nothing.
“When I was growing up in Florida, I could not afford to go to camps. We couldn’t do it. I wanted to attend, but couldn’t because of money,” said Champ Kelly, a former University of Kentucky player and current assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos. “I said if I was ever in position to have a camp like that for kids, I would want to give them the most coverage and most instruction possible for no cost.”
He’ll do that again June 21-22 at Henry Clay High School from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day.
“It’s going to again be a time for the kids to meet the star, but it is about more than that,” Kelly said. “It’s not about the guys coming back to help me. It’s about the campers. We come in and don’t make a big stink out of who is there to help and you are going to get awesome coaching.
“The kids are going to learn football. We are going to prepare them for success on and off the field. For younger campers, we will stress the basics while getting into more extensive training with older campers. We will have a variety of guest speakers delivering messages on life skills and the importance of making good decisions.
“I like a mixture of ages. Older kids are able to be leaders by example. I want younger kids there at ages 10 or 11 from now until they graduate and they know what that CHAMP Camp on the front of the T-shirt represents.”
Kelly had the camp at Bryan Station last year, but wanted to reach out to “a few different kids” by moving the camp to Henry Clay.
“Our plan originaly was to try every couple of years to move to a different area to reach more kids. We hope the kids in the Bryan Station area want to come to camp regardless of where we are.”
But he would like to have more than just Lexington campers. North Hardin High School has told Kelly it hopes to bring up to 44 players and at least 30. Kelly is hoping other high schools will do the same.
He’ll have a variety of former UK players like Derek Abney, Dougie Allen, Leonard Burress, Chris Demaree and more at camp again. Last year he had both Randall Cobb and John Conner, current NFL players, speak to the campers.
“It’s almost like a who’s who of Kentucky football,” Kelly said. “But these guys love to get together and help. They like to come back to Kentucky where we all met and give back for a great cause. It’s not like pulling teeth to get them back. They want to help. I just think it is awesome that a guy like Derek Abney, who lives in South Carolina and is very selective about camps he’s involved with, will come spend time and talk to kids and help the receivers out.”
He’s reached out to former UK quarterbacks Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen about helping this year as well as former UK linebacker Jeff Snedegar. Cobb plans to be back if his schedule permits. Current NFL offensive lineman Garry Williams also plans to return. “He is awesome. He stays the entire day to help,” Kelly said.
He said current Bronco tight end Jacob Tamme also hopes to be at this year’s camp if his schedule allows.
“I try to not put names out there because I want kids to come for the idea of what the camp is about opposed to just the people that will be there,” Kelly said. “But I always want as many of the Kentucky guys there as possible not because of their names, but because they are great with the kids and teach them lessons about life and football.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
His camp included current National Football League player Garry Williams, an offensive lineman with the Carolina Panthers, as well as numerous former Kentucky players who have played in the NFL such as Derek Abney, Dennis Johnson, Anthony White, Chris Demaree and more. Even Tim Couch, a former UK quarterback who was a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, stopped by to watch his nephew work out.
The C.H.A.M.P. Camp is part of Heart Power, Inc., an organization that supports youth and their families while encouraging positive influences on their lives. Former UK football player Anthony “Champ” Kelly, now the assistant director of personnel with the Denver Broncos, used his contacts to bring in a star-studded coaching staff to the camp at Bryan Station High School in Lexington last week.
Kelly’s own story is one of an unlikely rise to such a prominent NFL position. After graduating from UK, he played for the Lexington Horsemen from 2003-2006 and received the United Indoor Football Man of the Year Award in 2006 to recognize his leadership on the field and in the community.
He was Lexington Christian Academy’s offensive coordinator from 2002-2006 and was the general manager and wide receivers coach for the Lexington Horsemen in 2007.
Outside football, he was an organizational developer for Nurses Registry and Home Health in Lexington July 2005 to January 2007 and worked for IBM in Lexington from May 2002 through July 2005 as a software/quality engineer.
“Honestly, I am never amazed at what God does. I completely leave my life into his hands and where He guides me, I am willing to follow. I am smart enough to know that I don’t control it,” said Kelly as he watched youngsters participating in his camp.
Question: How do you get so many former UK players, including some still in the NFL, to be involved with this camp?
Kelly: “I don’t know. I surrounded myself with a great group of men who wanted to come out here and invest in these kids. It wasn’t me. I was them wanting to invest in their community which speaks volumes about some of the UK alumni and all these guys in this circle.”
Question: But you must have something going on because you don’t see all these former players together even at a UK function?
Kelly: “I just like to believe that they know if they ever had to call on me for anything that they know I would be there in a split second. They know if I am a part of a function, it is going to be organized and is going to be true and trustworthy and is going to be goal oriented. We have a purpose for being out here.”
Question: Do you almost have to be at your camp to appreciate what it means to the youngsters as well as those helping you?
Kelly: “I have told multiple people that I really want to invite everybody to come and experience this for one time. A lot of these coaches, they didn’t know what to expect last year and when they showed up and saw the delight and pleasure on the kids’ faces then they were contacting me about working this year. We added some more UK guys, we added some more NFL guys. This is one of the best coaching staffs you could ever have assembled on a football field.
“We actually had a few guys travel up to Colorado for a camp last weekend. Dougie Allen came and Leonard Burress was going to come and they are going to Florida with me next weekend. Just guys that love the game and know how important the game is to teaching life lessons and they want to continue instilling that to kids in the community.”
Question: What makes former UK All-American receiver Derek Abney love this camp so much that he spent a week promoting it and came from South Carolina to work at the camp?
Kelly: “Derek Abney is an amazing man and everything I said about him when I introduced him to the kids I believe it and I hope they did. He is the kind of guy every parent should want to model their son after because he’s a guy of integrity, hard work and he has a tremendous intellect of the game and life far beyond his years.”
Question: Is anyone happier than former UK defensive lineman Vincent “Sweet Pea” Burns, who has been away from football and not even back to a UK game, and here he is smiling and working with kids?
Kelly: “The football field and the joy of being around your teammates even in a coaching setting, you can’t rival that with anything in the world. To have guys from all different genres and all different socio-economic status is just amazing. They all come here with the common goal of making these kids better. It doesn’t matter where they are at right now in their current life, all they want to do is help these children better and help turn them into grown men.”
Question: Speaking of better, will former UK linebacker Danny Trevathan make the Broncos better now that you have him drafted and signed?
Kelly: “We are very excited to get Danny. I thought he was going to be able to make it out here but he had some other travel plans. We are excited about what he will bring. We just want him to stay consistent and do what he did at UK (when he led the team in tackles two straight years).”
Question: How has free agent signee Jacob Tamme looked at tight end during workouts and minicamp?
Kelly: “Jacob is great. Again, he is as great a person as he is football player. He is another guy that was sorry he could not be here but he had a family vacation. He is coming to do so more community work in Kentucky in July with his Swings for Soldiers golf outing. He asked me to try and be in that so I will see if I can be here for that, but we expect Tamme to be here next year for this camp.”
Question: Do you have a hard time being unbiased with former Cats Tamme, Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard on the Denver roster?
Kelly: “I am proud of those guys. Being a UK Wildcat, bleeding blue like I do, to see those guys achieve is warming for me. First of all, my job is to find the best athletes, best people in the country. To be able to get those guys from Kentucky means a lot to me and speaks volumes about our university.”
Question: How do you feel about how the UK program is doing or do you even have a chance to pay attention?
Kelly: “My focus is with the Denver Broncos is on the pro side so when I watch the Kentucky football team, I watch it as a fan and alumni. I try to remove my evaluations purposely and I try to let those guys know I am available to talk to them and if they have any questions I want to be there to help them. That’s about the extent of it.”
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.”
Vaught’s note: Former all-Southeastern Conference receiver Derek Abney wanted to add a few insights into a story I did about a month ago on the football camp another former Wildcat, Champ Kelly, will be hosting in Lexington June 21-22-23.
By DEREK ABNEY
The first CHAMP Camp was last year and went better than I anticipated. It is organized by a former UK football player, Champ Kelly, who’s now the assistant director of Pro Personnel for the Denver Broncos. I had never done a football camp prior to last year’s but, because of Champ’s character and dedication to a fantastic cause, I had to be involved.
There were roughly 150 children who learned football fundamentals and, more importantly, got to hear some good insights from positive role-models. Besides myself, some of those speakers included Alphonso Smith, John Conner (my favorite UK football player), Ellery Moore, a church leader, a NFL referee, and even Gayle Sayers. I can’t 100 percent confirm this but this year we hope to have some recent UK players all of us know! (Does anyone remember #18???)
Part of the reason I thought the camp last year was a success was the way the sponsors came through for the children. The sponsors not only made the camp fee affordable but also donated $7,000 – $8,000, with majority to UK Children’s Hospital and a portion to Urban Impact (Lexington inner-city, church oriented). The major donors were Dunkin’ Donuts, Nurse’s Registry, Lexington Legends, and Texas Roadhouse and most of the sponsors are signed up again.
I hope and anticipate this year will be bigger and better with more children, great speakers and more charity. However, the camp’s success is dependent on spreading the word and I encourage all to be a part this with me. This not only means having your children participate in the camp, but please tell your friends, co-workers and your church and get involved with advertising. The more people know, the more we can touch.
I also want to personally invite everyone to come down to Texas Roadhouse during dinner on Thursday, June 21 to meet me and the staff. I would love to say hello and thank you for your support in my college career and also for your community.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Champ Kelly did not have the opportunity to attend football camps when he was a youngster, something he never forgot, because there were none close to his home and he could not afford to go to camps in surrounding areas.
â€œI said if I ever got in position to give back to kids, I would,â€ said Kelly, a former University of Kentucky receiver who is now the assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos. â€œOnce I got to Kentucky, I was able to chip in and donate a lot of my time to community service. I remember going to the childrenâ€™s hospital at Christmas and seeing kids and the joy they had. I wanted to be part of making those kids happy.
â€œThe Kentucky area adopted me and let me grow into the person I am now and Iâ€ˆalways wanted to give back. Thatâ€™s a big part of my life and why my wife and I started this camp.â€
He will hold his non-contact C.H.A.M.P. Camp for children ages 10-17 at Bryan Station High School in Lexington June 21-22
â€œThere are scholarship opportunities for players needing additional financial assistance,â€ Kelly said. â€œThe C.H.A.M.P. Camp strives to instill the core values of character, heart, attitude, motivation and pride (C.H.A.M.P.).â€
The camp is part of Kellyâ€™s Heart Power, Inc. â€“ a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting youth and their families in search of positive, encouraging influences in their lives. Heâ€™s also had a camp in Graceville, Fla., and this year will also have one in Denver. The camp stresses football skills with instruction from coaches, current players and former players along withÂ messages on life skills and the importance of making good decisions.
â€œKentucky has no NFL team, no professional sports teams. College become the pro teams and that is what the fans want to relish,â€â€ˆKelly said. â€œThe fans at the University of Kentucky are absolutely amazing. I remember us going 2-9 and the stands being full. That type of loyalty is to be commended. My wife, Stephanie, is from Louisville â€” sheâ€™s the only thing I like about Louisville, too. But I absolutely love the Kentucky area and I just thank God that Iâ€ˆam privileged enough to give back with this camp in Lexington.â€
Go to www.heartpowerinc.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.