Before he made a name for himself in the National Football League, Keelan Cole dismantled defenses on a regular basis at Steele Stadium.
The former Kentucky Wesleyan College star, now a third-year wide receiver with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was back on that same field Saturday morning to host his inaugural youth football camp on the KWC campus.
The campers went through several hours of instruction from Cole and other counselors, learning the fundamentals of the game and playing 7-on-7 drills. They capped off the experience by taking photos and getting autographs -- on trading cards or even just their camp T-shirts -- from the 6-foot-1 wideout.
"It was good," Cole said afterward. "It was about getting the kids out on a Saturday morning. ... It was really to come out here and put some smiles on their faces.
"It was really good to give the kids here an opportunity to see somebody at my level. There aren't many opportunities in Owensboro to get that, so I was trying to give them something new."
Following a three-year career at Wesleyan, in which Cole totaled 205 receptions for 4,323 yards and 53 touchdowns, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jaguars in 2017.
Over the past two seasons, Cole has played in all of his team's 32 games -- starting 17 of them -- and has caught 80 passes for 1,239 yards and four TDs.
"It's been good," Cole said of his pro career thus far. "When you come from here, everything above is good. I've just been grateful for the opportunities, and I'm still grateful for the opportunities. I'm just trying to get better."
The Louisville native, who played sparingly as a defensive back at Central High School before blazing his own path at Wesleyan, isn't taking anything for granted. He's spent the summer working out and training for next season but took a break to host his youth football camp.
According to Dynasty Sports Performance CEO and Ohio County High School coach DaMarcus Ganaway, who helped organize the camp, the decision was a no-brainer.
"It was an opportunity for Keelan to come back to Owensboro, especially here at KWC, where he established himself," Ganaway said. "Nobody knew him coming out of high school; he wasn't a really talented prospect. For him to be here at Wesleyan and do something for the kids, I think it's an awesome experience for them all today."
Ganaway, a former KWC wide receiver who later had a stint with the New York Jets, remembers meeting Cole at DSP, a local speed and agility training center.
"Keelan was one of the hardest workers that we had consistently," he recalled.
Now, Cole is focused on putting in that same effort on the gridiron, especially following last year's difficult close to the season. Cole was thrust into a starting role because of injuries to the Jaguars' receiving corps, and he finished with just 491 yards and one score following a 748-yard, three-TD rookie campaign.
Jacksonville coaches saw Cole's hard work at organized team activities in May.
"The big thing for me for Keelan was Marqise [Lee] got hurt," receivers coach Keenan McCardell told ESPN last week. "He had to step full-fledge into a starting role and that can weigh a lot on a second-year guy that hasn't really had that experience of being a starter. It comes with the territory, those ups and downs. Now that he's had that down, now let's come back up and let's prove to people that you belong here, you know you belong here. Now let's show everybody that you belong here."
Cole has a simple solution for proving he belongs.
"Catch everything and score every time I get the ball," he said, cracking a smile. "That makes everything easy right there."