The last two years former University of Kentucky standout Lynn Bowden, who now plays for the Miami Dolphins, helped the Somerset Youth Football League host a youth camp and he was planning on doing the same thing again last weekend.
However, his original flight to Kentucky was one of many cancelled last weekend and with commitments he already had in Florida on Sunday and Monday, he was unable to make the camp in Somerset Friday.
“(My wife) Kerri told him not to worry and he told her he would love to come back again next year,” said Brandon Brooks of the Somerset Youth Football League (SYFL). “We didn’t want him to get stuck here and have to drive him back to Florida to keep his commitments.”
With a record 165 youth players registered for the event, league officials needed help — and they got it.
The league had a “friend” contact UK sophomore defensive back Andru Phillips of South Carolina about the camp and also had an “ace” in redshirt freshman quarterback Kaiya Sheron, a state championship quarterback at Somerset who was already planning to attend the camp.
“Dru brought a few guys with him and Kiaya said he had five or six guys who wanted to come,” Brandon Brooks said. “It was great. They saved us.”
That’s because the camp ended up with 13 current UK players at the camp — Phillips, Sheron, DeAndre Square, Jacquez Jones, Juhtan McClain, Chris Lewis, Jamarius Dinkins, Khalil Saunders, Martez Thrower, Jordan Dingle, Jase Bruner, Justice Dingle and Connor Long.
“Lynn was great at camp but there is only one of him. We had 13 UK players come and truly save the day. They were spread out at every station and doing drills with the kids,” Brooks said. “Kids always have a great time with UK players. I think they liked it just as much having more UK players there. It was still the same stations but adding at least one UK player at every station put the camp over the top.”
“All the players jumped right in and made sure all the kids were having fun. We do some competition-type drills but we just want the kids to have fun and the UK players got that.”
Most of the youth players know plenty about Sheron. Brooks said the young players remember him and “love” him.
“When they see a kid who went to the same school as them and played on the same team they want to play on and he’s now playing at UK, he’s like a celebrity. He gives them hope and they think they can do what he did if they just put the work in,” Brooks, who has sons ages 10 and 7 playing in the league who attended camp, said.
“He also understands it means a lot when those kids see him. He comes around a lot when he can. We will see him at youth games sometimes if he has a break.”
This SYFL camp had about 85 players attend four years ago. Now it has almost doubled in size and Brooks knows Bowden’s presence helped do that.
“The camps allow kids who do not play in our league to come and see what we do because Lynn was there. He was a great help drawing kids who were not in the league at the time,” Brooks said. “Kids on the fence about playing come to camp and have fun and they end up playing in our league.”
SYFL players did not have to pay to attend the camp. Those not in the league were charged $40.
“When Lynn could not make it, my wife gave the money back to everyone not in the league who had paid,” Brooks said. “We want the camp to be fun and free for kids in the league and affordable for those not in the league, so giving the money back just seemed like the right thing to do.”