Assistant Director of Pro Personnel Champ Kelly runs a football camp pointing youths in the right direction.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Anthony “Champ” Kelly grew up in a broken home.
Living in a small rural town in the Florida panhandle, his parents struggled to provide a stable household and there were constant temptations to get involved with a dangerous crowd.
It would have been easy for Kelly to fall prey to his difficult surroundings, but he survived that troubled childhood.
“When I was growing up my mother was addicted to drugs and my dad wasn’t around all the time. I was raised basically by my grandparents. We didn’t have a whole lot,” Kelly said. “A lot of the people that I grew up with – a lot of those people are in jail. Some are dead. Some got involved in drugs. I could have made the decision to get on the wrong path.
“But having athletics and the strong presence of coaches helped steer me on the right path.”
Kelly – now the assistant director of pro personnel for the Denver Broncos – found success and proper guidance through the game of football. He played collegiately at the University of Kentucky and later played professionally in the United Indoor Football League.
Now, with the help of his wife Stephanie, Kelly is using the sport to help steer youths in the right direction with Heart Power Inc. – a non-profit organization the couple created in 2010.
According to Kelly, the most important aspect of his organization is the two-day, non-contact football camps. The 2nd annual C.H.A.M.P. camp recently took place in Kelly’s hometown of Graceville, Fla., and also made its way to Lexington, Ky., for the first time (Kelly hopes to bring the C.H.A.M.P. camp to Denver in 2012). Campers range from age 10-17 and while there is a $50 fee to attend, no camper will be turned down due to lack of funds thanks to support from sponsors and donations from local businesses.
In fact, only 25% of campers were able to pay the fee.
So with over 250 campers in attendance, Kelly and a wide array of coaches and guest speakers – including NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers – used football as a mechanism to reach kids with invaluable educational lessons.
“The game of football is such a great parallel to life, that it makes it a perfect fit for these camps. I played the game all my life so I understand the game, so to be able to use that as an avenue to reach these kids is just amazing,” Kelly said. “I can’t remember an instance when I was growing up when we had professionals at any level come back and talk to us about how to be successful in life.”
But as a professional now, Kelly is delivering those messages.
Despite his time-consuming commitment to a front office position in the National Football League, Kelly uses what little time off he has to give back.
“To do what we do in this profession requires a lot of time and commitment and to execute a non-profit and orchestrate camps during the summer requires a lot of dedication. So it’s almost like working two or three jobs and it takes away from free time,” Kelly said. “But for me to be in this position and not invest or help out another child it would be doing a disservice.”
Kelly is proud and honored to have worked his way into a job he considers his hobby.
And as he sits in his comfortable office wearing a Broncos collared shirt and hat, he often reminds himself how fortunate he’s been to find such success in life coming from such harsh beginnings.
So Kelly will settle back into work and focus in on another NFL season, but he is already looking forward to next summer and what lies ahead for his camps, and the hundreds of impressionable kids who’ll be in attendance.
“I love everyday that I’m alive to come into this building and I don’t take it for granted,” Kelly said of working for the Broncos. “But the most fulfilling part of this job is not just being a title at the Denver Broncos.
“It’s the fact that I can use this position to affect the community.”