Even before the Denver Broncos added Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan to their roster by using their sixth round draft pick on him last month, former Wildcat Champ Kelly was already beaming about the UK connections with the Broncos.
Kelly is a former Kentucky receiver who has been with the Broncos since 2007. He started as the team’s Northeast region scout in 2007 and became assistant director of pro personnel in 2010. He is responsible for assisting in the evaluation and acquisition of free agents in addition to advance scouting and compiling research for the club.
The Broncos picked up linebacker Wesley Woodyard as a free agent out of Kentucky, and he has had four productive seasons with Denver. They recently signed free agent tight end Jacob Tamme, Woodyard’s teammate at Kentucky and a valuable and a versatile player for Indianapolis the last four years. They also added defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon in a trade, then re-signed him after he was cut just before the start of the 2011 season.
Kelly was almost giddy over being able to reunite Tamme, a Boyle County High School product, with quarterback Peyton Manning after Denver signed him during the offseason.
“He comes in with an immediate familiarity with Peyton. They had a good rapport in Indianapolis when Dallas (Clark) was hurt. We are very excited to have Tamme to add another weapon to our arsenal to make our offense better,” Kelly said. “I knew Jacob back in Kentucky, and he’s one of the people that people I try to talk about how good a character he has. He is a great person and great teammate, the kind of person you want on your roster.
“I have admired him from afar, and we are so excited to have him here. I have watched him grow and become a better player, and he will have a great chance here to be an even more productive player.”
Kelly says it’s impossible to accurately gauge the value of the intangible qualities Tamme brings to a team.
“They are extremely important. You have to gel as a football team, and it takes the right mixture of high character, good quality people to make it work,” he said. “If you have a solid corps of those type of high-character people, then your team has a chance to sustain winning year after year.
“That is something we look for when we are scouting. We look for smart, tough, dependable, good teammates. That is what we look for when we are out scoring. We don’t just look for the fastest or strongest players. That’s why I am proud to be part of this organization. Tamme understands the game of football. He is a veteran now, and when you sign a contract to be on another team, you know that it is time for you to step up and make it happen like he will.”
Kelly says Woodyard has grown into a beloved player among Denver fans.
“He was another one of those guys that I heard about in Kentucky. He was in the first group of guys I scouted,” Kelly said. “Everything I heard about Wes was that he was energetic, high character, a great competitor and loved the game of football. Those type of things make a college free agent stick around the NFL.
“He was special-teams captain his first season, made his mark immediately with grown men. He is one of my favorite players of all time. I respect him, and I hope he continues to improve and continues to fight and really relish the fact he gets the opportunity to play in the NFL. Our staff does not accept mediocrity, and Wes is the kind of guy that when you surround him with good coaches and teammates, he stands out.”
Kelly, a 2001 Kentucky graduate, was hoping Jarmon would stick with Denver last season before he was a casualty of one of the last cuts.
“We signed him back and are looking forward to having him an entire offseason and then in training camp for us to see what he can do, and I still think he can do a lot,” Kelly said.
“I am a die-hard Kentucky fan. You have to remove all the loyalties in this business, but I am still die-hard Kentucky. To see those guys beat the odds and win jobs, I am so proud of them and I respect them. I am glad we get the opportunity to work together, and we’ll never have too many Kentucky guys for me.”