Jimmy Kemp is determined to keep his dream alive. A backup quarterback for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos -- his third CFL team in five seasons in the league -- he hopes to eventually ply his trade back in the United States, where his father, Jack, and his older brother, Jeff, amassed a combined 24 years as quarterbacks in the AFL and NFL.
In the meantime, Kemp also is trying to prepare for what he calls "life after football" in the family's other well-established, albeit less glorified, career:
During the CFL's past offseason, he worked as a substitute in the Montgomery County school system for six months, receiving assignments at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Quince Orchard, Walter Johnson and Walt Whitman high schools, and Herbert Hoover, Cabin John and Sligo middle schools.
No calls came for work at Churchill High in Potomac, where Kemp was a star quarterback for two seasons before graduating in 1989. Substituting at his alma mater, he said, might have made him a "sideshow" among the students, who may have paid more attention to him than their schoolwork after identifying him as the person pictured in the school's sports Hall of Fame in the main hallway and the football Wall of Fame in the main gym.
"I know the kids there would recognize my face because they see it every day," Kemp said. "They'd say, Hey, you're in the Hall of Fame,' and I'd say, Yes,' and it would be over. But just knowing high school kids, it would be a distraction. I don't feel like drawing attention to myself."
There's only so much Kemp, 26, can do about that. He carries a name synonymous with sports -- and political power. Jack Kemp played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills in a 13-year career before becoming a congressman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a presidential and vice presidential candidate.
Jeff Kemp was the starting quarterback for Churchill's 1976 state championship team and later played for the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles over an 11-year span.
The Kemp family also has established strong professional ties to education. Jack and his wife, Joanne, both hold California state teaching certificates, and their daughter, Jennifer, was a public school teacher in Virginia.
Jimmy said he embarked on substitute teaching to supplement his CFL income, which was about $38,000 (U.S.) last season, and to gain experience for a possible full-time teaching job in the future. He said he aspires to someday open a charter school that emphasizes classical education, where students "learn how to learn" instead of relying on teachers who constantly try to force knowledge upon them.
During the 1997-98 academic year, Kemp taught students in a wide range of grades while standing in for instructors in social studies, history, math, English, Spanish, physical education and special education. He said he never raised the subject of his football career, but that students still found out by asking related questions, including whether the substitute position was his job for the day and how old he is. "Kids like to ask questions when they see a 26-year-old as a substitute," he said. "I don't think they see that too often."
Once students learned of his pro sports endeavors, he said, many switched from talking to their friends to showing intrigue. "A couple of times I talked to kids outside of class, and they asked me about football," he said. "I don't have a problem with that. But in class, the subject is not my life, it's their work. I tried to stay focused on that."
One place where Kemp managed to mix the two was Sligo Middle School in Silver Spring. Some students there said they bonded with Kemp, who handed out CFL trading cards of himself to students who showed a positive attitude in the classroom.
"Mr. Kemp doesn't want everyone to grow up to be a football player, but he would probably like to see everybody go to college for at least a year," Kyle Petrlik said.
Added classmate Kevin Campbell: "Mr. Kemp says that if you have your mind set on something, you shouldn't stop. You should keep trying until you reach your goal."
Kemp is better able than other substitutes to build a dialogue with students because he's a role model with pro sports experience, an "icebreaker for conversation these kids want to have," said Mark Sturdivant, a teaching assistant at Sligo who also happened to play on the Springbrook High team that beat a Kemp-led Churchill squad, 42-21, in the 1988 state title game. (Sturdivant later became a starter at the University of Maryland and had a brief pro career.)
Kemp said he sees himself as a teacher more than as a role model. "I like working with kids, it's a big challenge," he said. "Kids keep you honest because you can't deceive them, and they don't give away their trust easily. But when they find somebody that they respect, they open up and kind of let you into their life slowly."
His immediate challenge is excelling in the CFL. The Wake Forest graduate first signed with Sacramento in 1994 and played there one season before the team relocated to San Antonio in 1995. After the league's American teams folded following that season, Montreal acquired him in a dispersal draft.
He played for Montreal during the first half of the 1996 season, became a free agent and signed with Edmonton, starting seven of 10 games later in 1996. He started three games in 1997, when Edmonton lost to Toronto in the Grey Cup, the league's title game. The Eskimos released Kemp in February but re-signed him shortly before their 1998 regular season started July 2.
He did not play in the Eskimos' first two games this season. But after starter David Archer -- another former NFL quarterback -- aggravated an abdominal strain in the first half of a 28-14 loss to Saskatchewan on July 16, Kemp played the rest of the game. He completed 12 of 24 passes with three interceptions and scored on an 18-yard run. This past Thursday, he started against Toronto and in addition to running for another touchdown, he completed 12 of 22 passes for 193 yards and two scores in a 30-27 Edmonton victory. Eskimos spokesman Dave Jaimeson said Kemp is the likely starter Friday against Montreal.
Although the CFL has sent a number of quarterbacks to the NFL, including Warren Moon, Joe Theismann and Doug Flutie, the 6-foot, 200-pound Kemp said he will have to try to make the jump in his own way and with his own style of play.
"In terms of emulating, I can't really change myself into somebody that I'm not, so I've got to become a starter with the abilities that I have," he said.
And if it doesn't work out, so be it -- even if that will mean not equaling his father's and his brother's achievements. "It's a sense that someone in your family has done something that you'd like to do too," said Kemp, who added that he feels a "healthy, not a negative pressure" to reach the NFL.
His father seems to have a similar view.
"I guess when I was a young professional football player," Jack Kemp said, "I thought my dream in life was to have my sons follow me into pro football. Then, when they made it to the extent that they have, my thinking changed a lot. I'd like them to be good husbands, good fathers and, by the way, I'd like them to be successful in football, business or politics."
And don't forget teaching. CAPTION: Jim Kemp substitutes in the classroom and on the field as he bides his time for a starting quarterback role in the CFL.