KU football hosts fun-filled clinic for Special Olympians

Cory White of Olathe, runs past Kansas football players Michael Reynolds (55), Chris Martin (56) and Ty McKinney (97) during a KU football skills clinic for area Special Olympians on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at Anschutz Sports Pavilion.

Jay “White Wolf” Horn, 33, of Pittsburg, had Kansas University’s football team in stitches with his intensity, ability and dance moves.

Saturday morning at Anschutz Sports Pavilion, the entire KU football team and its coaching staff joined nearly 100 Special Olympians from across Kansas for a 90-minute skills clinic that mixed football, fun and fits of laughter.

Working mostly with KU’s defensive linemen, Horn stole the show at nearly every station with a Michael Jackson-esque encore to each physical accomplishment.

“I tell ya, he could dance,” KU junior defensive tackle Keon Stowers said. “He could shake a tail feather, and after everything he did he would get to dancing. I just loved it, man. I think I was having more fun than the kids out here.”

The clinic was organized by Hannah & Friends, a not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with different abilities. On Saturday, the charity, which was started by KU coach Charlie Weis and his wife, Maura, in honor of their daughter, Hannah, got a helping hand from the Hannah & Jayhawk Friends student organization, which Maura Weis said was the fastest-growing group on KU’s campus.

“I think that people with special needs bring special people out,” she said. “They root for them, and they help, and they want to volunteer. They just bring something out in the human spirit that you can’t hold back. For the kids to come out this early on a Saturday morning and help with this is amazing. Charlie said they were really psyched to come out here and I could really tell.”

The clinic preceded Day 3 of KU’s spring practices, the first in pads, and provided a quick break from college football’s constant intensity. It also featured an appearance by Bekah Henderson, of Topeka, who recently was named the Big 12 Special Olympics female athlete of the year and will be honored at next weekend’s Big 12 championship game in Kansas City, Mo.

“When you have the opportunity to be around these special individuals that have so much life and energy and charisma, it’s so much fun to put a smile on their face and just know that you’re making their day,” junior quarterback Jake Heaps said. “The thing I enjoyed the most was just seeing all the guys on our team really enjoy the moment, have fun and connect with these guys. I think it really shows what our team is like.”

From kicking and tackling drills to funny poses in front of the green screen that produced pictures of the participants “on the field” with the team, the day turned out to be memorable for all parties involved.

“It was great to meet the players and make new friends,” Horn said before revealing that he got his dance moves “from hip hop.”

Added Stowers: “It’s a good feeling to come out here and be able to put some joy in their life. This probably will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

Safety Ray Mitchell leaves team

Junior Ray Mitchell, a safety from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, is no longer a member of the KU football team.

Mitchell, 6-foot, 190 pounds, was listed as a second-string strong safety behind red-shirt freshman Tevin Shaw on the Jayhawks’ pre-spring depth chart, which was released last Monday, but, as of Saturday, was no longer listed on the roster.

KU officials confirmed Mitchell’s departure Saturday night.

And, through an athletic department spokesperson, Weis said Mitchell left the team Tuesday, and he wished him well in the future.

Mitchell served as a reserve safety in 2012, appearing in 11 of the team’s 12 games and finishing with six tackles.

Throughout his KU career, which included a red-shirt season in 2010, Mitchell played sparingly on both defense and special teams.