Michigan redshirt sophomore defensive end Carlo Kemp comes from a “tough-love” kind of family. One of his uncles, Chuck Pagano, is the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts, and his other uncle, John Pagano, is a defensive assistant for the Oakland Raiders.
Football flows deep in the Pagano family blood — and the Kemp family by extension — and when asked about the best advice he has ever received from his two uncles, Kemp laughed.
“They said they would not draft me,” Kemp chuckled. “I’m always working to hopefully change their minds one day.”
That day may not arrive just yet, but after redshirting his first year at Michigan, Kemp is confident he’s making strides in his game. Kemp arrived as an early enrollee prior to his freshman year and has now had over a year under his belt of lifting and learning how to play in Michigan’s defense.
He also has had the opportunity to go through spring practice twice, and feels that it has been very beneficial in boosting his overall technique and approach to the game, both mentally and physically.
Last year, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown admitted that he would’ve traded away Kemp for as little as two used footballs, but a lot has changed since then.
“Getting those two spring (camps) in for me really helped because that’s a lot of learning and a lot of coaching,” Kemp said. “Getting that second camp in leading up to Florida was really beneficial for my personal growth.”
Now, working his way into the starting lineup is one of Kemp’s main goals. But with such a stacked defensive line, he understands that his ability to provide relief for the starters is just as important.
Kemp is fully embracing his role backing up sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary, one of Michigan’s standout defensive players this year.
“Depth is big for us,” Kemp said. “You want to make sure that when the starters come out, they feel confident that the person that’s going in behind them is going to succeed and do what we’re supposed to do on the field. For me, I know that when Rashan comes out, I want him to feel like he can go and get his breather.
“That way, when he goes back in, he can do what we all know that he can do at the highest level, without being exhausted because he has to play the whole game.”
In Kemp’s eyes, Gary has developed into a leader on the defensive line. Gary, the former top-ranked recruit in the nation for his class, was credited with two tackles and a quarterback hurry against Florida. Whenever Gary makes a play, whether it is in practice or in the game, Kemp is watching.
Kemp’s admiration for him goes beyond Gary’s physical talent and includes his knowledge of the game.
“Personally I look up to him a lot because he knows a lot about the game,” Kemp said. “If you wouldn’t take his coaching or watch what he does when he’s in, it would be pointless. I’m always watching him, and he’s always got really good advice for me. I just try to follow his example.”
Now that Gary’s starting on the D-line, Kemp will have plenty of opportunities to watch his teammate. Kemp subbed in for Gary on a handful of plays against Florida last weekend — enough to earn his first career tackle.
Kemp has been able to work his way into a stacked defensive line rotation, despite playing with a broken hand.
During a scrum with redshirt junior offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Kemp got his hand caught in Bushell-Beatty’s shoulder pads on a pass rush. Kemp came out of the play with a broken hand in the first week of fall camp, but it didn’t stop him from playing.
He wore a big “club” cast, as he described it, that covered his entire right hand. He has since been upgraded to a cast that allows him to move his fingers around.
“I used to have the club,” Kemp said. “I just had a left hand, but now with my fingers I can grab stuff now.
“Grab stuff… grab people… grab whatever.”
His two NFL coaches-for-uncles surely wouldn’t let him use a broken hand as an excuse, and Kemp won’t let it derail his efforts on the D-line either.