Keeton making himself known nationally
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 23:10
There was a time when few people, inside or outside of Logan, knew the name Chuckie Keeton.
There was a time when Keeton wasn’t on any preseason watch lists, or when a Utah State football player never got “helmet stickers” from ESPN or a time when nobody used #Keeton4Heisman onTwitter.
That’s all a distant memory now.
The Keeton phenomenon started in his first college game when Keeton, who was announced the starter on game day, almost led the Aggies to a win in the house of defending national champion Auburn.
They lost their lead with 30 seconds left in that game.
“The fact that we lost that game in the last possible moment made us want to fight more,” Keeton said. “That just kind of set the tone for what we had in store.”
Keeton still had work to do, and after getting injured midway through his freshman year, he returned ready to put the Aggies on the map for his sophomore season.
USU went 11-2 behind the dual-threat quarterback during the 2012 season, losing those two games by a total of five points. Keeton earned first team all-WAC honors and led his team to their first bowl game victory since 1993.The Aggies finished ranked 16th in the AP Top-25 poll.
Since the end of that magical season, the Keeton craze ensued.
Keeton was showered with preseason praise, finding himself on the CBSSports.com Heisman Trophy Watch List, Walter Camp Player of the Year Watch List, Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List, Maxwell Award Watch List and the Manning Award Watch List, just to name a few.
“It doesn’t phase him,” said senior center Tyler Larson. “He just wants to be the best out there, and he does it.”
That kind of praise could cause problems for many players and many teams, but not for Keeton. His teammates don’t notice any difference in him.
“I don’t know how he does it,” said junior running back Joe Hill. “He still remains focused, doesn’t let himself get big-headed, and he stays humble.”
Former USU head coach Gary Andersen echoed the players sentiments.
“He’s always been very steady,” said Anderson, who coached Keeton for his first two seasons. “He’s the same person today as on the first day he walked on campus. I haven’t seen him change.”
Keeton said he tries to ignore the hype.
“I tend not to think about it a whole lot,” Keeton said. “It’s part of football, but on the practice field, I’m not thinking about it that much. I’m just thinking about the next play and how I can help this team improve.”
When the season started, more praise was given to Keeton, from shout outs on ESPN’s SportsCenter to a feature article on NFL.com and praise from opposing coaches.
Keeton isn’t a secret anymore.
However, with all of the positive things the Aggies have done recently, they have seen some tough times this season. With close losses at Utah and at USC, Keeton and the Aggies have faced their share of adversity.
But those who know Keeton know that when things get rough, he won’t be fazed.
“He stares (adversity) right in the face and attacks it,” Hill said.
“He always believed he’d make something good happen if something bad happened,” Andersen said. “He carries on with mental and physical toughness, and his teammates look to him.”
Keeton faced a lot of difficulty during his first season, but he wasn’t troubled back then either.
“His first year, we were going 2-6 (on the season) and nothing really shook him up,” Larsen said.
Keeton looks at his biggest roadblock as one of the turning points for the program.
“The attitude really kicked in when we played Hawaii,” said Keeton, who was hurt against the Rainbow Warriors and lost his starting spot. “That was just kind of a meaningful win. Since then, we’ve been carrying that exact same taste in our mouth every win and every loss.”
Andersen said any concern of Keeton letting any praise or adversity going to his head isn’t realistic.
“He defers to his teammates first and thinks of himself second,” Andersen said. “I don’t think he’ll handle it — I know he’ll handle it.”
When it boils down to it, Keeton just wants to win.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean much unless we come out with wins, so that’s the biggest thing,” Keeton said.