Published: May 26, 2010
Former Graceville High School and University of Kentucky football star Anthony “Champ” Kelly will be conducting his first high school football camp July 8-9 at Graceville High School.
The “C.H.A.M.P Camp” will be a two-day, non-contact camp for students ages 10 to 17 from Northwest Florida.
The camp will stress football fundamentals, speed and agility, as well as focus on life skills and education.
C.H.A.M.P. stands for “Character, Heart, Attitude, Motivation and Pride.”
The 30-year-old Kelly, who now works as assistant director of pro personnel for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, said the camp’s mission is as much about the off-field lessons as the on-field ones.
“The main thing is using football to get kids to listen to people talk about life skills, upcoming obstacles, and the importance of education,” Kelly said. “I’ve really been tremendously blessed to be raised by this community, and have opportunity to go get an education while playing football, play a little semi-pro ball, and now I’m living a dream as a scout in the NFL.
“When I was at Graceville, I didn’t get to see professionals talk to kids, to see how they got to where they’re at. I never wanted to lose sight of that. I want to make sure kids have an example to look to.”
After graduating from Graceville in 1998, Kelly moved on to play for the Kentucky Wildcats for four years, playing both cornerback and receiver.
He then got his master’s degree while working for IBM for two years. But his fondness for football got him back in the sport.
Kelly went to play for the Lexington Horsemen of the United Indoor Football League for four years, before moving on to be a coach and general manager.
After that, he got a job as a scout for the Broncos, with whom he has spent the past three years.
Kelly and his wife Stephanie recently started a non-profit organization called Heart Power Inc., which will use donations from businesses to fund the “Champ Camp,” as well as future youth camps.
Kelly said he will also donate some of the proceeds from his camp to Sunland Center in Marianna.
“We’re very excited to give back,” Kelly said of he and his wife, a pediatric physical therapist who works with special needs children.
“I’ve always felt a need to give back, and I have a passion for children,” he said. “I just wanted to combine my love for kids and knowledge for football, and start off by doing these camps.”
Kelly said the football instruction at the camp will focus on the fundamentals of the game, with players split up by position and taught drills specific to each group.
“We want to increase the knowledge base for the kids with the drills,” he said. “And we’ve got some great local coaches who are going to come and help us out.”
Kelly’s high school teammate, Kevin Weston, now the defensive coordinator at Tusculum College in Tusculum, Tenn., will be among the coaches at the camp.
Former Graceville and Kentucky star running back Lee Wesley will also be one of the camp instructors.
Other former Tiger stars who will be at the camp are JJ Laster and Nathan Nolan.
There will be a guest speaker every two hours during each day of the camp, with each speaker delivering a different message about the importance of education and other life lessons.
“The guys I have working the camp are guys that I’ve played ball with, guys I know personally,” Kelly said. “They’re good people with good hearts. They were hand-picked. I wanted people from around the area, people that genuinely care for the kids in the Panhandle.
“I’m just trying to get together some positive influences for the kids.”
Kelly said he initially was apprehensive about the numbers his camp would be able to draw, but has been pleasantly surprised to find strong interest from local schools.
He said he expected as many as 150 campers, with football players from Graceville, Cottondale and Chipley all set to participate.
Chipley coach Rob Armstrong coached Kelly at Graceville. He planned on bringing his entire varsity team, including any middle school players who wanted to go as well.
“Obviously, there will be some good football stuff,” Armstrong said. “But just for kids in the area to be around folks like Champ and some of the guys from the area that are helping him, guys who have benefited from playing ball and getting to college to get their degree and becoming successful in a career, that’s great. The football part is good, but I’m excited about the other part, too.”
Armstrong said positive messages delivered by former players who aren’t that far removed from their playing days carry greater weight.
“I can tell it to them over and over, but if they hear that from someone like Champ, or one of the guys they used to see play, they may listen to them,” the coach said.
Armstrong said Kelly was a great example for his and other players to follow.
“He’s as smart as he is athletic,” the coach said. “For him to accomplish what he has at his age is pretty good. He’s got a bright future in the NFL, and it couldn’t happen to somebody who deserves it more than he does.
“Any time he’s home, I always try to get him to talk to my team. I think it’s good that he’s doing this camp and giving back to Graceville and folks that he thinks a whole lot of. These are kids he wants to see go on and do good stuff. That tells you all you need to know about Champ.”
Kelly said he feels obligated by his success to try to help others reach similar heights.
“I think that God blessed me with a pedestal, and I would be selfish to not use that to help others,” he said. “Guys will come (to the camp) because they see the Denver Broncos associated with my name.
“But kids should know that whether I’m working with the Broncos or working at Best Buy, my complete focus is on them and caring for them.”
Kelly said he wanted to make the camp an annual affair, with it taking place in different cities in Jackson County each year.
“I don’t want it to be a one-year thing,” he said. “Every year, I want the kids to be excited about us coming back. We want to keep it going.”
For further information about registration or sponsorship details, visit www.heartpowerinc.org, call 720-524-7139, or e-mail email@example.com.