On Friday, Denver Broncos assistant director of pro personnel Anthony “Champ” Kelly put on his second annual C.H.A.M.P Camp at All City Stadium in Denver. The two-day camp, which emphasizes Character, Heart, Attitude, Motivation, and Pride, was free for kids 10-17 years-old.
“When I was growing up, there weren’t camps like this in the city that I was born, and the camps that were a little further away, I couldn’t afford,” Kelly said. “I grew up wanting to learn how to be better and I didn’t have the opportunity, so I always told myself and told my wife that if we’re ever in the position where we can give back to the people who grew up like us, we would try to do it.”
Now in charge of evaluating free agents, coordinating player workouts and visits, and scouting and compiling research for the Broncos, Kelly grew up in Campbellton, Florida, a small town just south of the Alabama border. He was raised by his grandparents and taught to always give his all.
While the kids at C.H.A.M.P Camp went through non-contact position drills, Kelly made sure to highlight the real reason why they were there.
“Winning is listening to your parents and doing what they tell you to do,” Kelly told his campers. “Winning is showing up at places on time. Winning is doing what’s right. Doing those things help you win at life and make you a better person.”
C.H.A.M.P Camp is just one function of Kelly’s non-profit, Heart Power, Inc. The organization’s goal is to support youth and families, who are in search of positive, encouraging influences in their lives.
“We stress football fundamentals here with every position group, but what we want to do is teach these kids how to make the right choices in life so they can be successful and significant in life,” Kelly said. “We’re making them finish drills, we’re making them run hard, and we’re teaching them to push through some pain so they can continue to work and grow into better men, better brothers, better husbands, and better fathers one day.”
The 250 campers sat in the bleachers as Denver Chief of Police, Robert White, reinforced Kelly’s message with his uniform and badge backing up his strong voice. White was raised in Washington D.C. by a single mother.
“Most of the kids who I grew up with are either dead or in jail because they made bad decisions,” White started. ”When you give your best on that football field, that means you should be giving your best at home, with your parents, your grandparents. You should be giving your best at school because I will tell you, whatever you’re doing out on that field is an indicator of what you’re doing at home and what you’re doing at school.”
As White got his point across, I made my way around to talk to some of the volunteers.
“Being around 100 men all day every day, it’s nice to come out here and see this youthful energy and just remember that we’re part of a bigger community,” Broncos tight end Julius Thomas said. ”We probably won’t be able to teach them great technique in two days. We want to teach them what it takes to play the game, what your mindset needs to be, how sharp your focus needs to be in order to execute at a high level.”
“The reason I’m here is because of Champ,” former Broncos’ defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely said. “I have 36 years of coaching experience. I want to give something back. Champ’s given me the opportunity to give back to the game of football by working with these young kids. It gives me great satisfaction to carry on the things that I have a lot of wisdom about through the game of football.”
Kelly started this camp in his hometown four years ago. During the first year, he expected just a handful of kids to sign up, but was graced with 100 kids and 50 coaches. That’s when he decided to expand his efforts.
Aside from the camp in Denver, he’s holding one June 21-22 in Lexington, Kentucky where he played college ball, and June 28-29 in Panama City, Florida.
While Kelly is the big name associated with the camp, he says, ”It’s the volunteers and the staff that are the substance of this camp.”
The camp in Denver was sandwiched in between OTAs and next week’s mandatory minicamp for the Broncos. Along with Kelly and Thomas, guys like Ben Garland and Jeremiah Johnson were in attendance as well, proving that there really is no off day for a Denver Bronco.
Kelly and Heart Power are always looking for different partnerships of sponsors. If you’re interested in helping out, please visit Heart Power, Inc. or contact them at [email protected] or (720) 524-7139.