Johnson enjoys first football camp

July 23, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - The numbers were not what he hoped for, but the enthusiasm the 100-plus youngsters had more than compensated for that.

Former Harrodsburg and University of Kentucky football player Dennis Johnson is holding his first football camp here. He was hoping for 300 youngsters, but thought registration problems and Thursday's stormy weather probably hurt his numbers some.

"But the kids here are fine. Next year we've got to get the word out better, but I'm pleased the ones here are having so much fun," Johnson said. "Maybe it would have been too big to have 300 kids. If we had that many, I couldn't get around and see them all as much. I am a hands-on person. I want to interact with them all."

Johnson, who leaves next week to start his third season with the Arizona Cardinals, did that Thursday and planned to again today on the final day of his camp. He went through drills with the campers, encouraged them and made sure his camp coaches, which included former UK teammates and current NFL players Artose Pinner, Eric Kelly and Chris Demaree, made having fun a priority.


"I wanted coaches with personalities," Johnson, who also had his brother, Derrick, and current Lexington Horsemen Dougie Allen and Champ Kelly on his staff, said. "Derrick had more fun than the kids. He was dripping with sweat and living a dream playing quarterback during the drills."

Kelly recently was released by Minnesota. However, the three-year veteran cornerback quickly signed with the Houston Texans. He came to Lexington because Johnson came to Panama City, Fla., to work his camp earlier this month.

"We are into doing things for kids and promoting anything positive," Kelly said. "I felt it was only right for me to come here. Us guys from Kentucky stick together."

Most were from this area

Many of those at the camp were from Danville, Boyle County, Mercer County and Harrodsburg.

Susan Brown left Harrodsburg at 7 a.m. to get her 10-year-old son, Chase, to camp on time.

"We're going to spend the night. It's my daughter's birthday and my husband is bringing her and her friend here. We're going to do some fun things, shop, maybe go to a movie and then come back to camp tomorrow. But I'm really glad Chase got to come."

Johnson thought it might be too far for youngsters to drive from Danville or Harrodsburg to attend his camp. However, the large turnout already has him thinking ahead to next year.

"I might try to do a day camp in Danville," he said. "It would be good for those guys because they wouldn't have to travel as far, and maybe we could get even more kids involved. Then they could come back over here to this camp, too. Danville is a football area. They win state titles at Danville and Boyle County. The young kids could use this camp to jump start their seasons."

Both Johnson and Kelly said the campers, who were as young as 7, were a bit in awe of them at first.

"They were a little curious and a little shy," Johnson said. "Then they would say they watched me on TV, or had seen me on the PlayStation games getting sacks. Once they got to know us a little, they really liked interacting with us."

On The Net:

Dennis Johnson bio on Arizona Cardinals web site

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