By LARRY VAUGHT
Fate can work in strange ways, but today it almost seems like Denver tight end Jacob Tamme should be destined to help the Broncos beat Seattle in the Super Bowl in New York and get the championship ring he missed three years ago when the Colts lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl.
Why? Because fate has always been kind to Tamme.
Start with how the former Boyle County and University of Kentucky star met his wife, Allison. The two went to preschool together at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, started dating the summer after their sophomore year and have never been apart. She was the manager for the Boyle football team. Even when he went to Kentucky and she headed to Western Kentucky, they still spent time together.
And don’t forget that Tamme surprised her by proposing after UK played — and won as fate would naturally have it — in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
Or what about the way fate intervened to even get Tamme to Kentucky.
He was a three-sport star at Boyle with Division I baseball offers along with numerous Division I football offers. However, he always wanted to go to Kentucky.
He was set to commit to UK and coach Guy Morriss the day after Boyle hosted rival Danville his senior year. But the Admirals stunned Boyle — and ended the Rebels’ school-record 47-game win streak. Tamme didn’t go to UK the next day and then-Boyle coach Chuck Smith — who became the Boyle coach again Friday — will never forget the phone call he got back from Morriss on Monday after he had called to say Tamme wanted to verbally commit.
“I was sick to my stomach when I got the call. I thought I was going to throw up,” recalled Smith. “Coach Morriss told me that he didn’t have a scholarship (in-state receiver Keenan Burton had committed and Morriss was out of scholarships for receivers).
“I told him, ‘Wait one second and I will put you on hold and I will get Jacob out of class and he will commit to you on the phone right now.’ He said, ‘Chuck, you don’t understand. I don’t have a scholarship. That scholarship was taken.’ Then I had to tell Jacob.
“Everyone of us was bummed out. I didn’t feel like leaving the house after we lost. I knew how Jacob felt and why he didn’t go to UK the next day. If he had been warned ahead of time, it would have been different. But we had no clue there was just one scholarship left. It was never brought to our attention and that rubbed me the wrong way. Jacob had other offers, but I knew in my heart where he wanted to go and he knew. I remember it like it was yesterday. But he made the best out of the situation because he’s a class act.”
And fate was there to help him.
Kentucky had a successful season, Morriss bolted for Baylor and before UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart had any idea who he was going to hire as coach he called Tamme and asked him to hold off on making a college choice. Tamme waited, Barnhart hired Rich Brooks and then Brooks found a scholarship for Tamme.
Remember, though, it wasn’t instant success for Tamme, not with offensive coordinator Ron Hudson believing he was too slow to play receiver. Only after Brooks was forced to dismiss Hudson and promote Joker Phillips to offensive coordinator at the end of Tamme’s redshirt freshman season did fate smile on Tamme again.
Phillips moved him to tight end, he caught two touchdown passes against Tennessee and went on to set UK records and earn all-SEC honors. That led to him being drafted by Indianapolis — who just happened to have a quarterback named Peyton Manning who liked Tamme off the field and appreciated his value on the field.
When Manning left for Denver two years ago, Tamme happpened to be a free agent at the same time. Fate — and probably Manning — helped get Tamme to the Broncos and now he’s positioned to win a Super Bowl ring.
Still, fate found a way to help one more time. It was just over a year ago that Allison Tamme was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Family and friends supported the Tammes and the couple’s faith surely had to help as well. Plus, Allison Tamme said she now enoys life even more.
Tamme is completing his sixth season in the NFL. That’s a productive career, but I can still remember former UK special teams/tight end coach Steve Ortmayer telling me that if Tamme lasted a year in the NFL he would be there a long time because of his willingness to adapt and character.
“Ort used to tell that and I really respected his opinion on things, especially the NFL because he was there so long,” Smith, who coached with Ortmayer at UK, said. “He told me all the time they look for character kids and when you get one — and Jacob is not a kid — and they want to be part of the team, they will keep you there. As long as they contribute and produce, that’s the kind of guys you want to build a team with he said. Ort said that all the time, and he was right.”
Smith can still remember watching Tamme play for the first time on the Woodlawn Elementary team when he was probably in the fourth grade.
“I think he also came to my (summer) camp. I used to watch him play Little League,” Smith said. “I would go to games and knew he was a really good athlete. But I knew he played all the sports. I always wondered when he was young if he would continue to play football or like so many kids in Kentucky do if he would get caught up in basketball or maybe baseball. But he was a football guy and stuck with it and the rest is history.”
Fate would not have had it any other way. Tamme is playing in the Super Bowl with former Cats Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, two players Smith coached at UK, and surely that has to be fate and a sign of a win coming today.
“Good things happen to good people. Call it fate or whatever, but Jacob is a good guy and I can’t wait to watch every play and hopefully see him get the win that I know he wants so bad,” Smith said. “Nobody would deserve it more than him, either.”