LOGAN, Utah – Hope. For being such a small word, it certainly has a lot of power. It applies in both the good and bad situations in life to motivate and encourage.
For Utah State senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, hope has been the constant, driving force, moving him forward.
As he was finishing up his high school career, Keeton was intrigued by the promise he saw in Utah State football.
Originally, however, Keeton committed to the U.S. Air Force Academy. After his commitment, he thought about the strict lifestyle enforced by the military and the things he may have been limited to. After de-committing from Air Force, the Aggies came calling again, and this time won the bid.
“I came to Utah State with a lot of hope. The coaches sold me on an up-and-coming program that we’re starting to see come to fruition. It gave me high hopes when I first got here,” Keeton said. “I told Coach (Jovon) Bouknight I wanted to be an Aggie and that was the beginning of this whole story.”
That story has turned into one unlike many Utah State football has ever known. Upon Keeton’s arrival in Logan, a change started to develop in the program and community alike. He entered the football building in the summer of 2011, knowing the starting quarterback spot was open. With no guarantees set, Keeton knew the spot was his for the taking.
“Coach (Gary) Andersen never promised that I would play. He told me we had a quarterback ready to graduate and that a spot would be open, but it had to be earned,” Keeton said. “That’s all it took for me, that’s all I needed to know. I’m a big competitor, especially with myself first of all. I’m going to push myself as hard as possible.”
Luckily for Keeton, his drive paid off. He worked hard through his first fall camp as an Aggie and was rewarded with the starting spot in that year’s season-opener at Auburn. There, he surprised the nation, leading the team to a near-upset of the defending national champions.
“The coaches sat me down in the office and told me to close the door, so I thought I was in trouble. They told me they had confidence in what I had been doing and felt like I could help lead the offense to a successful game,” Keeton said. “That’s all I worried about at the time, taking it one game at a time. That’s kind of been the mentality that pushed me from that first day to who I am now.”
From that point on, Keeton has drawn back on his constant hope. Midway through that first season, he found himself sidelined with an injury. So began the road to recovery and finding a way to contribute off the main field of competition.
Back in the game in 2012, Keeton went on to have a record-breaking season. He began his junior campaign in 2013 with the eyes of the nation on him, being named to watch lists of several high-profile awards, highlighted by the Heisman Trophy. However, on Oct. 4, in a game against BYU, Keeton was once again brought down with an injury. This time, it was an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear in his left knee that would require surgery and months of rehabilitation.
For many, that kind of experience would be absolutely heartbreaking and difficult to come back from. Keeton, however, saw it as a learning opportunity and eventually, a blessing in disguise.
“I’ve always lived by the philosophy that you never know when your last play will be. That’s been my mentality ever since I started playing football. I try and push myself every single play. When this happened, it just kind of hit home a little more and made me more grateful for what I have. It pushes me and helps me push the guys around me,” Keeton said. “I would never want anyone to have to be in the situation that I was put in, but what I got out of it is something I will cherish for a long time and apply to different aspects of my life. I want other people to have that same message, so if I can relay that to other people, then I’ve done my job.”
Keeton spent the remainder of the 2013 season, as well as the vast majority of the following off-season, recuperating from surgery and rebuilding the strength and power he had gained the reputation of having. While this season may not be going exactly the way he, or anyone else envisioned, he is making the best of the situation he finds himself in.
“The fact that I’m able to play on a level like this is good enough as it is. I can’t really say that I was sad I got hurt, because not many people get this opportunity anyway,” Keeton said. “I’m not going to say it was fun getting hurt, it’s been a lot of work to get to where I am now. I still have a lot to do as far as physically getting my health restored, but I feel good about where I’m at. I feel explosive and like I can move like I used to. I’m looking forward to leading these guys to victory.”
The impact Keeton has had on the Utah State football program is not a small one. He is ranked among the top names in the Aggie record books in multiple categories. Along with teammates and the coaching staff, he has played a huge role in revitalizing the atmosphere of Aggie football.
“What Chuckie Keeton has meant to this program is priceless,” said USU head coach Matt Wells. “He’s been a kid that has come in and started since game one and he’s earned it. He’s played at a very high level. He’s someone I’ve enjoyed coaching. He’s extremely smart and has great work ethic. He’s a kid that has a bright future ahead of him in whatever area he ends up in.”
From the day he walked onto the campus of Utah State University, Keeton has been giving it his all. He saw an opportunity in front of him and grabbed on tight.
“I didn’t know how much I would be able to help out a program like this, but I’m grateful for the position that I’m in,” Keeton said. “When I got here, I knew we were about to be a good team, I just didn’t know how I was going to fit into it.”
Fitting in has clearly not been a problem. With his football future a little uncertain, Keeton is back to the hope he has always known and counted on. He is using that to continue to develop Aggie football and see even further success.
“It’s our task now as seniors to not just carry it on, but pass it down to the new kids that are here. That’s what has been helping us continue to push to the top,” he said. “We’re not there yet, we still have a lot of work to do, but we have the players, coaches and the talent to make the stride to the top.”
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
– USU –