In the years since Wichita native Kamerion Wimbley hung up his football cleats, he’s reinvented himself as an entrepreneur who owns several businesses in his hometown.
Those ventures have taken him all over the country, but Wimbley, a nine-year NFL veteran who played for the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, has always found the time to return to Wichita.
One of his most popular events has been his free annual Wichita Dreams Football Camp, which features other Wichita natives who have had stints in the NFL, such as Arthur and Bryce Brown, Davontae Harris, Elbert Mack, Tysyn Hartman, Dreamius Smith, and Kyle Wilson.
This year’s camp is scheduled for Friday from 5-8 p.m. at North High School and is expected to draw close to 400 kids.
“I remember when I was a kid and Barry Sanders came through to one of my camps and spent time with us,” said Wimbley, a 2001 Northwest graduate. “That meant a lot to me to see someone who was on television and had this national name recognition take time to come back to Wichita and share with us. For me, it’s always been a joy to come back to Wichita and share what I can with the kids.”
Wimbley knows from first-hand experience how crucial it can be for a child during developmental years to have a role model. It wasn’t that long ago that Wimbley was a kid who didn’t have any money and dreams of bigger things.
Now Wimbley wants to make his camp available to every child with a dream, that’s why it’s free of charge. And he also wants to make sure they have someone to look up to, which is why Wimbley has recruited a cast of Wichita natives who played different positions in the NFL.
“It’s so important because you emulate the guys that you know and the people who you’ve seen play before and lay that foundation for you,” Wimbley said. “I want to give kids that hope and give them different options.”
While the camp will focus heavily on how to become a better football player, Wimbley and his staff are making academics a higher priority for this year’s camp.
Wimbley wants to emphasize the importance of taking care of business in the classroom and becoming a well-rounded student-athlete.
“We’re going to encourage the kids to ask our players about what it takes to get to college or maybe what it takes to make the team or make varsity,” Wimbley said. “But also about the off-the-field stuff, like how to handle adversity. Or what it’s like trying to study for a test when you have a big game coming up. I just want them to be open with questions and give them the players who understand that system and know where they’re coming from.
“I can definitely say that after my NFL career, my life has been a busy one and I’ve learned so much. So one of the things I really want to keep encouraging the kids about is that life doesn’t stop after football. There’s still so much out there to achieve.”
As for the game itself, Wimbley says there’s a feeling that comes around every fall that makes him miss the game. He’s been retired from the NFL since 2014 after playing in 140 career games and recording 442 tackles and 53.5 sacks.
Some of his fondest memories are still from his time at Northwest, where he starred for the Grizzlies playing quarterback, receiver, defensive end, linebacker and punter from 1998-01.
But Wimbley has found a new way to be a part of the game with camps like the one in Wichita.
“Now I just really like watching the younger guys play and encouraging them,” Wimbley said. “I still enjoy watching the game and every once in a while you get that feeling of ‘Man, it would be nice to be back out there one more time.’ But I feel like I got it all out of me as far as the player side of things. Now I’m just interested in collaborating with the NFL and NCAA and teaching the game of football and preserving the values and the things that are important to pass down to future generations.”
Back when Wimbley left Wichita for Tallahassee to join the Florida State football team in 2002, many of those he met didn’t know where Wichita was and upon finding out, joked about the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz.
Now, almost two decades later, Wimbley has made it his mission to put Wichita on the map.
His efforts have been awarded, as it was recently announced that Wimbley will be part of the 2019 class inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Kansas Star Casino.
“It’s one of those things where you work really hard and you wonder, ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I really making an impact? Am I really helping change lives?’” Wimbley said. “Then when you get recognition like this from your home state, it really gives you the confirmation that you put in a lot of work and it’s appreciated. This is very humbling and it’s also an honor.
“I always felt like I represented Wichita and now to receive that representation at the state level, it opens up even more doors and opportunities.”