Most Recent Posts
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- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
- ESPN.com’s Jason King seems to have logical rankings going into next season
- Mark Stoops on John Calipari: “I love being around him”
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands that hiring Vince Marrow was a home run for Kentucky
- Video: Larry hears cowbells, makes a chocolate cow and soaks up the culture in Switzerland
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting the home state of Kentucky
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
Question: What do you think having Neal Brown as offensive coordinator could mean to the UK football program?
Jason Todd: “I think the immediate result will be excitement. Excitement for the players and for the fans. The players will all be excited to prove to the new coaching staff that they can play and win in the SEC. The fans will be excited to see the exciting offense and to see what Coach Stoops has in store for the defense. The long term impact will depend on how well our new coaches are able to attract the players they need to be successful in their system. All coaches will tell you that having the players is the key to success. And I feel that it is not just up to the coaches to get players. I think when recruits are in Lexington, they need to feel the excitement of the whole community around the football program. If the fan base is energized, a recruit will feel that excitement and make them more likely to consider us instead of some other school. But when the fan base is down, it can make a recruit think, why would I want to come and play in a place that the fans don’t care.”
David Hopewell: “I believe players like to know they have a creative mind leading them. Neal brings that. Just watching some film on what he has done in different places looks like he knows what he wants to do anyway. Next is teaching players his system and developing them as players at this level so they know they’ll have a better shot at getting to the next level in the NFL. When you do that it will help the program grow. Being able to sell the dream of getting better and going to up has got to help.”
Andy Murray: “A new attitude with the kids. They will see the pedigree of this staff on day one, and it not be a walk in the park for them and probably won’t be a lot of fun at first. I also think our current kids will start to notice another gear that they did not realize they possessed when it comes to their everyday lives and level of play. These guys on our new staff have all been around success and know what it takes and it will be evident to our current roster immediately.”
Freddie Maggard: “Fan excitement and re-connecting the BBN. (My wife) Jen made (hotel) reservations for Nashville (and the season opening game against Western Kentucky) , I’d say 40,000 friends will do the same.”
Derek Abney: “It’s all so early but it’s hard to argue there’s a better fit at offensive coordinator than Neal Brown. The BBN is absolutely intoxicated with the Air Raid offense, and for good reason. Results mean everything but the future looks bright on both sides of the ball. If I only had a couple years left …”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Bringing former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown to Kentucky to run the offense for new coach Mark Stoops certainly seems to have pleased UK fans, but the move has been just as popular with former players. “I can’t think of anything that has gone over bigger,” said former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard of Lawrenceburg, who lettered at UK from 1989-91.
Four other former lettermen — Jason Todd (1992) of Stanford, Derek Abney (2000-2003) of Charleston, S.C., Dave Hopewell (1976-78) of Harrodsburg and Andy Murray ((1986-89) of Florence — all agreed on that as well as the overall excitement about Kentucky football since the hiring of Stoops.
Question: What is your reaction to UK spending the money to bring a creative, innovative offense mind like Neal Brown to the program?
Murray: “I am thrilled to see us participating in the financial arms race, and really believe we can compete with a creative offense. Hal Mumme could score with anyone and would have taken us to another level if he believed in defense. He also had a few quirky thoughts on his special teams approach and simply believed that he did not have the talent to defend some of the guys that were returning kicks in our conference. When you add his offensive scheme to a program that has a head coach with a defensive pedigree, it will be scary. You can look at what his brother did in OK with the same approach, and OK was at a low point in their program’s history from a talent standpoint. I think most everyone will agree, our team has more young talent on it today than the first two Mumme teams. The other key to this is approach is the fact that Brown’s system has done a better job of running the ball as you can see in their rushing yards per game at Texas Tech.”
Abney: “I have not heard the final numbers but it’s very encouraging. To get Neal, you would need to provide a substantial financial incentive. This is the last justifiable beef the BBN can have with Mitch Barnhart; financial support of the football team. This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing.”
Maggard: “My feeling reflects reserved euphoria. I am dang proud of UK, but understand re-building a roster is both challenging and takes time. Neal Brown, in my opinion, is the best offensive coordinator in college football and now he’s home in Lexington. But Neal will be more about business than homecoming pats on the back. I like that. College football is a mere Econ 101 text book case. Re-distributing funds to any entities major money maker is sound business and also is on par with the rest of the SEC. Mr. Barnhart has set the stage.”
Todd: “It is an exciting proposition to think we will have the defensive coordinator of the second ranked 2012 defense and the offensive coordinator of the second ranked 2012 passing offense teaming up at UK. I personally feel that this is the first step that UK has to take to see us get back to a competitive situation with our football program. It is great to think that we are in a situation to attract successful coaches to our program. I feel the next step is for the administration and the fans to do their part. By that I mean, the administration preparing and executing a plan to make the facilities and ‘extras’ for UK football to match the rest of the SEC. For the fans, I think that means they have to be willing to support the program with their attendance and the financial commitment that comes with that. Neal will bring an offensive style that we have seen before. It was exciting and successful and actually led to the last major financial expansion by UK when they expanded Commonwealth Stadium.”
Hopewell: “I’m certainly glad to see it. And again everyone knows how much I like offense. To bring in a coach who is has put together teams that have run offenses in the top 10 in the country at a couple of different schools is a step in the right direction.The added bonus that he is a Kentuckian and a former player, that is pretty sweet too.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
I asked former University of Kentucky football players Derek Abney, Freddie Maggard, Jason Todd, Andy Murray and Dave Hopewell a series of questions about Kentucky football. This is the first of a series of posts over the next few days with their answers.
Question: Do you remember a time when there was more excitement over UK football, especially coming off a 2-10 season?
Hopewell: “For me personally only one time. I was a freshman at UK in 1975 and we went 2-8-1. I sure hated to go home that Christmas. I could feel the embarrassment for me from my entire family. But we as a team knew we were better than that and the next two years we went 9-3 and then 10-1 and won the last SEC Championship UK has ever won in football. That’s still my dream for this team.
“But as a parent of players and as a fan, no I have never seen this much excitement. I do feel most fans are really happy about the way things have gone with this hire. It looks like coach Stoops has been given free rein on what he was wanting to do and I am really glad to see that.”
Todd: “The only thing I have to compare this to is the transition from Coach Curry to Coach Mumme between the 1996 and 1997 seasons. UK spent a lot of time and money getting out the word about the “air raid” offense that Mumme was bringing. Now we have the “air raid” part II and to go along with it, we have Coach Stoops and his background on the defensive side. As much as most fans will be excited about the offensive potential, I am just excited to see what Coach Stoops will be able to do with our defense. I would like nothing better than to have a defense that can stop people in the SEC. Regardless of the outcome, I will forever be a UK fan and avid supporter.”
Maggard: “I can’t, and I’ve been a fanatic since birth. Maybe after coach Jerry Claiborne’s first-second season, but today’s instant communication and social media takes this to a level uncharted at UK.”
Murray: “Not since the afternoon of us beating Louisville and listening to the Air Raid sirens in Commonwealth Stadium.”
Abney: “Absolutely not. And the excitement seems entirely justifiable.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky All-American receiver Derek Abney says he can’t remember being so excited about UK football as he was Tuesday when Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was named the team’s new coach.
“It’s just amazing. I can’t wait to see who the offensive coordinator is going to be,” said Abney, who lives in South Carolina now.
“This state loves football. I believe the whole place is ready to explode with excitement. The journey to a championship is the most fun,” said Burgin’s David Hopewell, a starter on UK’s 1976 Peach Bowl team and 1977 team that finished 10-1 and won the Southeastern Conference title.
Former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard of Lawrenceburg is excited, too, but also expressed appreciation to Joker Phillips and his wife for their “love and dedication to Kentucky” and noted that they have been “avid supporters” of the Kentucky National Guard and the state’s military.
“For that and many other reasons, I’d hope as Kentucky fans we don’t forget their 20 plus years dedicated to Wildcat football and continue to show our appreciation and support for their future endeavors,” Maggard said. “Also I’d like to wish his staff the best and pray for them to land on their feet and continue to lead young men on the football field. That’s the tough part about the business of college football. But I am definitely excited about Mark Stoops.”
So is former UK fullback Andy Murray, who lives in northern Kentucky. “I love the fact that we have a hard-nosed defensive minded coach. Football is about attitude … and defensive guys bring attitude,” Murray said.
The four players responded to various questions about the hiring of Stoops and what impact it will have on UK football.
Question: Has the hiring of Mark Stoops changed your enthusiasm about Kentucky football?
Hopewell: “Let me say 1st our hearts bleed Big Blue. My family loves coach Phillips and Leslie and all they meant to this program. We all hate things did not work out for him and we want to thank him for everything he has done for us. Thank you coach Phillips.
“Coach Stoops brings name recognition for sure. We have all heard of him and his family for a long time. I can say those close to me have already circled the spring game and are ready to travel to all the away games, too. Listening to the radio as things unfolded I had chill bumps as I read the release on the UK website and I cannot wait to hear the press conference Sunday. All the talk was positive as it should be at this time.”
Murray: “Without a doubt. He is connected in Ohio. This is the largest miss in Kentucky football history. We have more players per year in Cincy alone than the entire state of Kentucky and we have never had success recruiting there.”
Maggard: “My enthusiasm and passion for UK football stays pretty high, but coach Stoops brings a change that is exciting for UK fans. My family attends games at Commonwealth Stadium thru good and bad, so we’ll be there as we always have been. Just may have some more friends ask if they can tag along. Coach Stoops’ name and track record as a coordinator and recruiter brings on thoughts of competing in the SEC East. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
Abney: “I’ve surprised myself in that I’m more enthusiastic than I would have been with an offensive-minded coach. That is because I have yet to hear a negative thing about Mark Stoops, save he has no head coaching experience. Results will tell the whole story but, preliminarily, I really like the Mark Stoops choice.”
Question: Do you think he can immediately win the overall UK fan base back that seemed to bail out this year?
Hopewell: “Oh, no doubt about that. Coach Stoops has a good resume. He deserves a chance to run his own show based on that. I think UK and (athletics director) Mitch Barnhart naming a leader for our program is a big hit. Knowing who is in charge brings all the excitement back. Larry you have done a great job turning Kentucky into a football state and I want to thank you too. We need reporters like you to keep UK fans not only in Kentucky informed but nationwide and those abroad. I know how hard this particular change has been on you but I thank you for staying with the work you had to do. It has been good to hear and read all the news about UK football with the tough year we have had. How crazy will it get when we win the SEC!”
Murray: “I think the fan base is in shock. I really think that they were convinced Mitch could/would not close a deal on a guy like Stoops.”
Maggard: “I don’t think Nick Saban could win over 100 percent of our fan base, but this hire is hopefully a step in the right direction to re-connect the BBN. The last couple weeks have been unique, and not in a good way. I’ve been a UK fan for 40 years, and had never seen such divide and at times apathy. That can be attributed to many factors, I hope now we can all agree to support our student-athletes, coaches, and university. The initial press conference is vital; winning at Sunday’s event will definitely set the tone. From what I hear, it’s going to be incredible. I am confident that today’s excitement will be reflected in ticket sales. I’ve always said UK football fans are the best in the nation. They, we, should be rewarded for years of dedication to the program and deserve the very best.”
Abney: “Absolutely. The only fans that may be disappointed are the die-hard ‘air raid’ fans that want to see lots of touchdowns on offense. Fortunately, a great defense doesn’t necessarily mean an anemic offense.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips has a die-hard supporter in former UK All-American Derek Abney.
“Joker is doing a great job keeping the current program in tune with former players and he really does bleed blue. It’s a great move by him to keep former athletes and players part of the program,” Abney said.
Even if Kentucky does not have a winning season for the third straight year under Phillips, Abney believes he should keep his job. “I have thought about this some as a former player who played with Joker as my position coach,” Abney said. “I really feel he deserves another year barring some major problems happening.”
Abney’s reasoning involves what is best for the long-term UK program. His theory is that if a new coach would be hired if UK has a poor year and that new coach uses talent Phillips has recruited to have success, he would likely leave Kentucky for a higher profile job. Abney suggested that’s what could happen at Louisville if coach Charlie Strong has a big year with the Cardinals, something that seems likely after the way the Cards blasted UK 32-14 Sunday in the season-opening game for both teams.
“But if Joker starts winning, he’s going to stay and you have a better chance to have a dynasty, or a program that stays successful every year,” Abney said. “Barring either serious off the field stuff that Joker really does not allow, I feel unless the season gets really ugly with only one or two wins that he deserves another year. That would be a fourth year, and a defining year, for him.”
The season started ugly at Louisville with the Cats lacking any defense until Strong pulled starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater late in the third quarter after he had directed four scoring drives of 71 or more yards. Season ticket sales were already down dramatically, and Sunday’s loss won’t cause UK fans to flock to buy tickets for Saturday’s home opener with Kent State.
Do empty seats and lost revenue factor into the equation about keeping a coach?
“Between football and basketball, they carry the athletics program financially. Fewer season ticket sales are not a good thing. That’s a tough thing to answer,” Abney, an engineering major, said. “If UK has a poor year, I guarantee you ticket sales will go down even more. Do you bite the bullet and keep Joker or say we are moving forward with a new coach? I had not thought that much about that, but I still think he deserves a fourth year.
“I don’t think you could ever question coach Phillips’ character or integrity. My boss brought up Bobby Petrino, who wins but has some off-field issues. There a camp that says if you win, who cares. The other camp says if you struggle but then eventually win and you have a high character guy you are a lot better off.”
Abney will be in Lexington next weekend when UK hosts Western Kentucky because he’s being inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame. That’s the same day UK’s 1996 national championship team will play an all-star team from coach John Calipari’s fantasy camp before an exhibition game matching UK players now in the NBA.
Abney sees no problem with having the basketball events on a home football day. “I think it is a great opportunity for fans to go to both events,” Abney, who will be recognized at the football game, said. “It will be a great day for UK athletics.”
Could be, but why not bring the Hall of Fame inductees to the NBA exhibition game and maybe let someone like Abney encourage the fans to come over to Commonwealth Stadium for the football game.
“It would be a great honor to do that. I hope fans tie the basketball in together with football and it will help the football guys, too,” Abney said. “I would absolutely be thrilled to do that at the basketball game.”
What about also having the former UK All-American as honorary captain at the football game and use him at midfield for the pregame coin toss?
“You keep coming up with ideas. I want to do anything I can to help Kentucky,” Abney said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky All-American Derek Abney had never talked to UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart on the telephone before when he recently got a call from him.
“I wasn’t sure what was going on, then he gave me the news about the Hall of Fame. It was really nice to get that call,” said Abney. “It is a neat kind of honor that I had not really thought about truthfully. I am very honored to be part of history. To be part of that is unbelievable. The more I have thought about, the more it has sunk in. I am honored to be part of a very elite group.”
Abney is one of six that has been selected for the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony for Abney and J.B. Holmes (golf), Leroy Edwards (basketball), Jeff Keener (baseball), Clayton Moss (swimming and diving) and Nancy Scranton (golf) will be Sept. 14-15.
Abney set seven NCAA, 11 Southeastern Conference and 14 school records for kick returns and all-purpose yardage during his career from 2000-2003. The Wisconsin native was named a first-team All-America as a junior and second-team All-America as a senior. He was a three-time first-team All-SEC performer — something only three other Wildcats had accomplished.
He was the first player in NCAA history to accumulate 2,000 receiving yards along 2,000 kickoff return yards and 1,000 punt return yards. Abney returned eight kicks for touchdowns during his career (six punts, two kickoffs) and ended his UK career ranked second in three statistical categories: receptions (197), receiving yards (2,339) and touchdowns receiving (18).
“To be part of the SEC and just contribute to winning as a team were my main goals as a senior in high school. To come to Kentucky and have these kind of individual awards and honors has just been the icing on the cake for a career I would never trade in,” Abney, one of the most exciting players to play at UK, said. “I did not think this big when I was a high school kid and picked Kentucky. I just wanted to be part of winning teams. To have some records and now be part of the UK Hall of Fame is unbelievable.
“Truthfully, something like this never entered my mind. I just didn’t know if I left enough of a legacy to be part of something like this. You have some elite athletes in there. I just cannot fathom me being part of the Hall of Fame.”
He belongs. Make no mistake about that. His play was electrifying at times, but there was also no bigger team player than Abney. He was devastated when coach Guy Morriss left — Abney had been recruited and started his career under Hal Mumme — before his senior year and let the coach know that in an emotional team meeting.
Current UK head coach Joker Phillips became Abney’s position coach his senior year when Rich Brooks arrived as head coach.
“We went through some things prior to Joker and Rich coming, but we did have success as a team and individually,” Abney said.
Maybe his inclusion into the Hall of Fame can provide a ray of hope for those wondering how the UK football team is going to fare this season and are questioning Phillips’ future.
“If it is interpreted that way, I would love to help any way possible,” Abney said. “Any way I can help the team, I want to do it. Kentucky football means a lot to me and if someone looks and sees what I did and that inspires them, that’s great.
“This still is one of the most surprising honors I’ve ever had. It’s more of a legacy thing than anything. Every year you will have All-Americans, but very few can say they get into the UK Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor, wonderful surprise. The more I think about it, the more I realize what a big deal it is.
“I am all done playing. My competition days are over and to still be remembered is a humbling and wonderful honor. I made wonderful friends and had wonderful relationships at UK. I wouldn’t trade it all for anything even if there were some times that didn’t seem that good. And I do wish we could have won a couple more games here and there. I’ll always feel that way.”
He said his family is excited and that his mother was the first one to text him when news came out about his honor.
“My parents are my biggest fans,” Abney, an engineer now loving in South Carolina, said. “I cannot remember a competition that I was part of that at least one of them was not there. They were always a big part of me and who I am. My mom was even my soccer coach in my late elementary years, and we went undefeated. They were always there.”
Two former UK teammates were also an “important” part of his success.
“My best friend just happened to be kicker Justin Hutton. He lived with me from my redshirt freshman year on and was an integral part of me as a person,” Abney said. “Tommy Cook was an integral football teammate and was always there for me and went through a lot with me. Those are two guys I would really like to be involved in my Hall of Fame weekend.”
He’s still struggling with who he will have introduce him at the induction ceremony.
“I want to honor those that were a part of my college career, and maybe my football career prior to that. I really have not thought about it enough to pick anyone yet,” Abney said. “It’s really interesting to think someone will be introducing me. I have to think about this a lot. I have had a lot of different coaches in my career, and that support was important to me. My family and friends have always supported me.
“I am debating whether it should be more of a football person or more of a person outside football who helped with life’s intangibles. I just don’t know what to do yet.”
Six University of Kentucky greats will be inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in late September. The 2012 class includes former UK student-athletes Derek Abney (football), Leroy Edwards (men’s basketball), J.B. Holmes (men’s golf), Jeff Keener (baseball), Clayton Moss (swimming and diving) and Nancy Scranton (women’s golf). The class will be formally inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend, Sept. 14-15, in conjunction with the football game against Western Kentucky University.
Derek Abney (2000-03) is arguably the greatest kick returner in college football history after setting seven NCAA records, 11 SEC records and 14 school records for kick returns and all-purpose yardage. Abney was named a first-team All-America as a junior, second-team All-America as a senior and a three-year first-team All-SEC performer, becoming only the fourth player in school history to accomplish that feat. The talented star was the first player in NCAA history to accumulate 2,000 receiving yards, 2,000 kickoff return yards and 1,000 punt return yards. In all, Abney returned eight kicks for touchdowns during his career (six punts, two kickoffs), while he ended his UK career ranked second in three statistical categories: receptions (197), receiving yards (2,339) and touchdowns receiving (18). Abney’s NFL career ended because of injury.
J.B. Holmes (2002-05) led UK to its lone SEC championship in 2005 on top of being named the SEC Golfer of the Year, becoming the only UK player to claim the distinguished honor in school history. During his career, Holmes earned six first-place finishes and 35 top-10 finishes, more than any other player in the Brian Craig Era. The Kentucky native was a PING All-American three years, including a first-team All-American in 2004. He also earned first-team All-America by the Golf Coaches Association of America in 2005 and was named an Academic All-American, the GCAA All-American Scholar and the Cleveland Golf All-American Scholar in 2004 and 2005. Professionally, Holmes won two FBR Open titles on the PGA Tour and was a member of the 2008 Ryder Cup championship team. He has surpassed more than $10 million in career earnings.
Leroy Edwards (1935) was named the 1935 Helms National Player of the Year after averaging 16.3 points per game that season. A consensus first- team All-American, Edwards was also named first team All-SEC after leading the Wildcats to a perfect 11-0 record in league play en route to the SEC Championship.
Jeff Keener (1980-81) compiled a 20-5 pitching record during his two seasons with the Wildcats and still holds UK career records with a 2.01 ERA. He allowed only 5.1 hits per nine innings en route to a career winning percentage of .800, which is second in school history.
Clayton Moss (1999-2003) was an eight-time All-America diver and three-time All-America honorable mention honoree for the Wildcats. He earned All-America status on all three boards during his time at UK.
Nancy Scranton (1983-84) was Kentucky’s first All-SEC performer in women’s golf and also is UK’s most successful player in the LPGA ranks.
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.”
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.