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- Former UK great Jeff Sheppard excited about recruiting class, but says fans should remember players are young
- Kentucky fans even took time to throw up the “3 goggles” in the Alps
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- 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”
While she was training in Colorado for the Jennie Carol’s Memorial Mother’s Day 5K Run, Allison Tamme would often think about Jennie Tarter and her unexpected death in 2008 that led to friends starting this event in downtown Danville to honor her memory by raising money for BackPack Kids.
“Training in Colorado is a whole different animal. The altitude and hills are no joke out there,” she said. “I would be tired and my ankle or knee would be hurting, but then I would think how she would love to be out running with her sons. That gave me perspective. I was out running for 30 minutes because I knew I wanted to be able to run this race that supports such a good cause and honors a great memory. There was no doubt I would do it.”
Tamme, 28, also has another motivation — she’s a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer recently and underwent successful surgery (she had a check-up in Lexington Monday). But the “C” word scared her just like it would any of us.
“I had always worked out but it was because I had not done something in a while or I felt like I should run or I had a gained a pound or something like that,” she said.
Then she found out four things can help prevent cancer — environment, genetics, diet and exercise. She knew then she could control 50 percent — diet and exercise — to aid her recovery.
“I started running as soon as I was allowed after surgery,” she said. “I started training for this run. I wanted to do it with my family.”
That included her husband, Jacob, a tight end with the Denver Broncos who had never run a 5K and “dreaded it like the plague,” according to his wife.
“He was complaining that would be my Mother’s Day present. He was all worried and when we finished he was not even out of breath,” she said. “The most he had ever run in his life was a mile maybe. But he was talking the whole time and kept asking me if I wanted him to push (their son) Luke (in the stroller). I had to finally tell him to stop talking because I couldn’t run and talk. But he was a good sport about it. I was a happy mother.”
Jacob’s father, Theo — he ran the Derby Festival mini marathon a few years ago — also ran. Jacob Tamme pushed Luke the first 30 yards or so before Allison took over and finished the race with the stroller as she planned.
“I had planned to do this along,” Allison Tamme said Monday. “Jacob had work stuff, but he got it worked out to come home for Mother’s Day before he flew back today. It was really important to me that we did this all together.”
She said the prayers so many had said for her in recent months had been a “huge deal” and she still couldn’t put into words even now what it meant to have so many praying for her recovery.
“It is so important to know that other people are praying for you daily,” she said. “When you are at your lowest and hear you have cancer, nothing brings you down faster than that. Being a Christian, when you have hard times, you pray. But there were points when I did not even pray for myself. I didn’t know what to pray for. To know others were lifting up prayers for me was awesome. It still brings tears to my eyes when someone still tells me they prayed for me. It means the world to me.”
She was overwhelmed by the support after her husband put a message on Twitter the night before her surgery.
“People all over the country, and even foreign countries, were sending me messages of support. It was unbelievable,” she said.
She said her experience Saturday was “awesome” and she knows the work it takes to put on such a big event.
“I just ran three miles. I am thankful to those who organized this for putting on such a great event to honor her (Tarter) and raise money for a great cause. I know the work it takes to do something like this,” she said.
That’s because she is co-founder of Swings For Soldiers, an annual golf scramble, with her husband that raises money to build a new home for a disabled military veteran. The event will be July 15 at Keene Run Golf Club in Lexington.
“We went last year to actually see the house being built that our money was being used for and once we saw that, there’s no way we can’t do this again,” Allison Tamme said. “We will hopefully keep doing this every year to help the veterans. It’s a lot of work, but just like the race, there are some things you just do because you know that’s what you should do.”
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.”
New Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said there is no set number of receivers he’ll play. At Troy, he played more because he had more players with similar skills.
“At Texas Tech, we played a few less,” Brown said. “But over the last five years we have been tops in the country with most guys with receptions. I like to have as many receivers involved as we can.”
Kentucky will go into spring practice with three quarterbacks — Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles — getting an equal opportunity to win the starting job. However, Brown said if a clear No. 1 quarterback does not emerge by the end of spring practice, it is “not that big a deal” to him.
“I think what you want to do in the spring is see if anybody separates himself,” Brown said. “But the summer is a huge deal. Coaches are not allowed to be there with players. That’s where a lot of the quarterback’s leadership is developed. It’s always important to see how the quarterback handles that and manages the summer throwing schedule before they get back for fall practice. We are not able to watch, or even really hear about, what goes on. But you can tell when you get back who has done the work. If the quarterback or quarterbacks have done a good job of leading in the summer, it is real clear when you get back to camp how much they have grown. But it doesn’t hurt you if you don’t have a starter coming out of the spring.”
Brown likes to have versatile running backs in his offense.
“We want all-purpose guys. We will never recruit a running back that we feel cannot pick up a blitz courage-wise. We want guys that are good at running the football, trusting their reads and can also be a factor in the passing game. We like to throw to our backs. If you get a running back involved in the pass game, it makes the defense have to cover all five eligible receivers. But our backs have to have the courage and size to pick up the blit,” Brown said.
The UK offensive coordinator also wants the tight end to be an active part of the passing game, something that has been missing at UK since the graduation of Jacob Tamme four years ago.
“You like a guy that can catch and block equally well, but those are hard to find. There are only three or four in the country every year,” Brown said. “We look for guys with size. You want a big guy first. You want a guy that can catch and run. We feel we can teach them to block if they have courage. We use our tight end quite a big. We stand ours up some and then also attach him (to the line). We’ll use the tight end in underneath routes on third down but will also use him vertically if we have a favorable matchup.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Current Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme never played on the same team as Neal Brown at Boyle County High School, but that doesn’t mean UK’s new offensive coordinator didn’t have an impact on Tamme.
“Neal definitely influenced my career. When I was in middle school and Neal was in high school he was the guy I looked up to and aspired to be,” said Tamme, a former all-Southeastern Conference tight end at UK. “He was the star wide receiver and got a chance to go to UK and that is all I really wanted, so I certainly looked up to Neal.
“Now that we’re a bit older you realize we’re not really that far apart in age, but back then it sure seemed like it.”
Tamme said it was “very wild” to him the last few weeks when Brown’s name surfaced as a potential offensive coordinator at UK after Joker Phillips, Tamme’s offensive coordinator at UK, was fired. Tamme’s high school coach, Chuck Smith, also lost his job as Kentucky’s linebackers coach.
“The previous staff with so many connections leaving, and now a new staff coming in and you wonder if it will even have Kentucky connections and now not only does it look like it will have several Kentucky connections but we have another Boyle County guy and he’ll be calling the plays on offense. I think it’s great,” Tamme said.
“I have followed Neal’s career and I know he’s had success everywhere he has been. I think his offense will bring new energy and excitement to the players and to the fan base.”
Tamme was impressed with Brown’s work as offensive coordinator at both Troy and Texas Tech and believes he’ll help new coach Mark Stoops get UK back on the winning track.
“It’s all very neat to me. Neal has done some big things in the coaching world at a young age (32), and here’s hoping the best is yet to come and that by coming here Neal can help get the ship righted at Kentucky and continue to progress as a coach,” Tamme said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
If not for Joker Phillips, Jacob Tamme might not be playing in the NFL today.
Okay, maybe that’s a stretch but remember that it was Phillips who wisely moved Tamme from receiver to tight end as soon as he took over as offensive coordinator back in 2006 after Ron Hudson was fired late in the season. Tamme responded with his first touchdown catch at Tennessee in UK’s final regular-season game and went on to become an all-Southeastern Conference selection and NFL draft pick.
That’s why Tamme wasn’t quite sure how to react Sunday when former UK teammate Wesley Woodyard told him after they had helped Denver beat the host Cincinnati Bengals that Phillips had been fired. Both Tamme and Woodyard came back to Lexington last month to show support for Phillips and were on the sideline with him — and UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart,
“We always talk about the program and our time there and we keep up with what’s going on so it wasn’t ‘unexpected’ because I’ve seen the fan base deteriorating. But that doesn’t make it easy, especially for those of us who have so many connections to this staff,” said Tamme. “Joker was instrumental in my development as my position coach and later as offensive coordinator.
“Obviously I don’t know the status of the rest of the staff but I know situations like this are always difficult on those guys — and one of those guys, Chuck Smith, taught me what winning football is.”
Smith was Tamme’s coach at Boyle County when he was on four straight state championship teams and was part of a 47-game win streak. No one has been prouder of Tamme’s success with the Indianapolis Colts and now the Broncos than Smith and no one has praised Smith more than Tamme.
It also has hurt Tamme to see the program he helped start winning games and going to bowl games suffer the way it has the last two years.
“It’s hard, when you look at the success that was built over the last six or seven years, to see this current situation. I think Joker said in his statement (after his dismissal) that ‘change is needed’ – I suppose that is true,” Tamme said. “But it’s hard to see because I know how hard he’s worked and how much he wanted to succeed for our state and school.
“One thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is that we’ve seen some great moments in UK football over the past six or seven years. Joker was a big part of all those.”
Those moments included a win over eventual national champion LSU when Tamme was there as well as the goal-post game against Georgia. It includes last year’s win over Tennessee or the 2010 victory over South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier.
Tamme says it’s not hard to remember what his best memories of Phillips will be.
“I remember how excited and proud he was after some of our memorable victories. I remember how far we came as an offense when he took over as offensive coordinator,” Tamme said. “We became a confident group that knew we could score on anybody in the SEC, and we had one of the best offenses in the country my senior year.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky star Jacob Tamme is not going to second-guess what UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart has done or what direction he’ll go with his coaching search. Barnhart was the one who asked Tamme to hold off on his college decision after Guy Morriss, who had revoked a scholarship offer to Tamme, left UK for Baylor. As soon as Rich Brooks was hired, Tamme had a scholarship offer that he quickly accepted.
“I believe Mitch is the best AD in America. I know from my time at UK that he genuinely cares for the student athletes — their education and giving them an opportunity to compete for championships,” Tamme, now a tight end with the Denver Broncos, said. “So I trust he will make a great decision.
“I also think we have a lot of good young players that are currently getting experience, which is a positive. So I don’t have many thoughts on the ‘search.’ But I do believe that the future of the program is bright.”
The University of Kentucky Alumni Association and Keeneland have teamed up again this year for seeblue Day on Friday. Patrons are encouraged to wear blue to the track and all faculty, staff, students and UK Alumni Association members with a valid ID will receive free general admission.
A variety of university representatives will make appearances in Keeneland’s North Terrace. Paws and Listen, an all female vocalist group, will perform. The UK Cheerleaders, Dance Team and mascot will also make appearances throughout the day. Former Kentucky Wildcat and current Denver Bronco, Jacob Tamme, will be on hand to sign autographs from 12:30 – 2 p.m. Beginning at 11 a.m., the first 200 UK Alumni Association members who present their UK Alumni Association membership card in the North Terrace area of Keeneland will receive a free gift and are eligible for a UK prize pack drawing. Kentucky Sports Radio will also air its Friday morning show live from Keeneland.
A commemorative tumbler showcasing the Keeneland and UK logos will be sold starting Friday with all proceeds benefitting DanceBlue. DanceBlue is the largest student-run philanthropic activity on the University of Kentucky campus which benefits the Pediatric Oncology Unit at UK Children’s Hospital.