Brody Wells and Bracken Castle are already well known in football circles that stretch all across Southeastern Kentucky. Now, the pair of Knox County Middle School football standouts is getting the chance to make a name for themselves that crosses the border.
Wells and Castle were recently selected to participate in the Kentucky versus Tennessee Future Stars Football Classic, the oldest and original middle school all-star game between the two bordering states.
The game, which is the ninth in the series, will be played on June 16 at The Toyota Stadium in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Travis Canady, who coaches the two at Knox County Middle School, says getting to play in the all-star game is a huge opportunity that will pay huge dividends not just for the players, but the entire Panther team.
“In our area, kids often times are overlooked. It’s hard for them to get noticed and get these opportunities,” Canady said. “This is a great opportunity for these guys to see talent from all over Kentucky and even Tennessee. It will give them an early feel for the recruiting aspect of football because they are going to get so much coverage and all the things that go with it. And hopefully they’ll see that they have a chance to be something special around here in our small town.
“This will allow these guys to go and see that there is more out there and they can see athletes from different areas and know what they’ve got to compete against,” continued Canady. “And hopefully they’ll use this as a way to see what it takes to compete with and against the best and they’ll bring that back to the guys on their team here at home.”
Both players played big roles in Knox County’s success during the past season when the Panthers made it to the region championship game before losing to eventual state champion Corbin. Wells served as a feature back on that team, while Castle was the center. Both also played on the defensive side of the ball.
With the ball in his hands, Wells was as dangerous as anyone on any team in the region. He was often times unstoppable in regular-season games and was able to find the end zone with frequency. Canady expects Wells to fell at home on the all-star team.
“Brody Wells can be one of the best all-around players in this state if he wants to push himself,” said Canady. “He is the most athletic kid, at his age with his physique, that I’ve seen in a long time. He can do it all.
“He is a multi-sport athlete who took up tennis this year for the first time. Having never played, never picked up a racket, he made it to the quarterfinals of the region as a 7th grader at the varsity high school level. He is a special athlete,” Canady continued. “He can do it all. And as long as he keeps his mind right and stays humble, he will be something special to watch in the years to come.”
Castle, while playing a position that does not often get the spotlight, has still been able to shine due to an unwavering work ethic that never stops.
“Bracken came in last year lacking a little in football fundamentals, but he worked hard and started growing, and during the season it was unbelievable how he kept getting stronger and stronger and better and better,” said Canady.
“He’s the hardest worker we have. I’ve never seen a kid go through the kind of workouts he does outside of what we do with the team,” added Canady. “He has a personal trainer and another coach and the way he jumped from the end of last season to now is incredible. You won’t see very many kids willing to put in the work that he does. He’s hungry. His potential is limitless.”
Regardless the outcome of the actual game, Canady hopes his players use the experience as a tool to motivate their Knox County teammates when they return home and begin summer workouts in the coming weeks.
“Like I told the guys, enjoy it, but don’t let it get to your head,” said Canady. “Stay humble. Be thankful for the opportunity. And go in with a positive attitude and show them what us small-town boys can do.
“And I hope the rest of our kids will see that, just because you are from a small town like Barbourville, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out and do something big and compete with some of the best players from all over the state,” Canady concluded.
Brody is the son of Brent and Tabitha Wells. Bracken is the son of Tonya and Sam Castle.