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Tulane's Kemp emphasized mental preparation

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Kemp isn't unhappy he was injured against Houston last season, he's upset about the way it happened.

Kemp took a monster hit from Houston defensive end Phillip Hunt after the whistle, which shattered his collarbone. He had surgery three days later and doctors inserted a metal plate and 12 screws to repair it.

"It's upsetting because it didn't happen during a play," Kemp said. "I have no problem getting hurt playing football. I've gotten hurt plenty of times from the time I was five years old and now I'm twenty years old. It happens. I'm a little disappointed that it didn't happen in a real play."

What hurt the most for Kemp was the fact that he missed out on valuable playing experience. Kemp said when he started the Houston game coaches told him they were sticking with him for the rest of the season.

But with the injury, Kemp was forced to miss the rest of the year and hope for a chance to regain the starting quarterback spot in the spring.

While the injury limited his playing ability, it did give him an opportunity to get his mind right.

Former Tulane star running back Matt Forte, who was his friend and mentor and now plays in the NFL, came back to Tulane in January to get his degree. The first thing he did was call Kemp to work out.

"Me and him threw literally twice a day," Kemp said. "After the morning workouts, before class and then he'd call me at seven o'clock all the way up to sometimes midnight on Friday nights when everyone else was going out. We come out here and we'd turn on the lights."

Kemp said once he started throwing with Forte, he felt like he was throwing better than he did before the surgery because Forte was telling him to think about where he was going before he started to throw. He taught Kemp how to run through a play at the line of scrimmage so he'd be prepared for anything.

"I felt like the reason I didn't win the job my first freshman year was because I would get real flustered," Kemp said. "Now it's just, every single play, it's what Matt said. I just think about all the things that could happen so when they happen I'm ready for it."

Kemp said getting himself mentally prepared for each play made a huge difference in the spring. He was more prepared for blitzes or defensive formations that didn't work with the called play.

"By my third or fifth step I knew exactly where to go with the ball," Kemp said. 'I didn't have to get there and go, 'Where am I going to go with this ball?' I already knew."

That's why when the coaches graded out the quarterbacks at the end of spring ball to determine who would start, Kemp's numbers jumped off the page and made him the clear choice.

Kemp said he's texted back and forth with Forte throughout training camp and he continues to receive pointers. Kemp said he also plans to text Forte the Thursday before the season opener against Tulsa to clear away any pregame jitters.

"I'll probably be asking him, 'What do I do when this happens and that,'" Kemp said. "It's really great to have someone like that I can go to."