Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOGAN — The ambitious 17-year-old Texas native had never seen anything like it.
"It was a riot out there," said Chuckie Keeton of watching euphoric Aggie faithful storm the football field after USU defeated BYU 31-16 on a beautiful fall night in 2010.
Then a senior in high school, Keeton was invited, along with several other prep players, to visit the campus the weekend the Aggies hosted BYU. It was a plan designed to show the young recruits that Utah State was building something special in Logan.
"It was huge," said Utah State head football coach Gary Andersen of the impact attending that game had on Keeton. "The whole atmosphere, the packed house, ESPN; it was the perfect storm, if you will. The way we won it; it was off the charts. For him, it showed him this is big-time Division I football, and that's what Chuckie wanted. That's what got him over the top. It was a little risky at that time, but it all worked out."
Risky because this was a program coming back from once being ranked the worst Division I college football program. In fact, for several years attendance at football games was so abysmal, there was talk of moving the program to a lower level of competition.
And then came Gary Andersen.
The program turned around so dramatically under him that it was almost surreal for fans. So when they had their moment, they seized it. And their reaction made a lasting impression on the young quarterback.
In fact, the way the community has rallied around the Aggie's resurgence still inspires Keeton.
"The BYU game was probably my biggest experience," he said. "It was one of the things I'll probably never forget. With that, I have to make my own memories now."
He took a step in that direction when he led the Aggies to an overtime victory against Utah — in Logan.
"The Utah win is the biggest win I've been a part of," he said. "It was also Hall of Fame weekend, and a couple of guys almost cried. It was remarkable to see it having that big of an impact."
Instead of feeling the pressure that comes from knowing a community of fans and alumni are counting on you, Keeton feels energized.
"It doesn't put pressure on me," he said. "It sets a new kind of goal. It's a new aiming point as far as the hill we're going to climb."
In other words, each moment of success only raises the expectation of what's possible for the program. Keeton's legacy is off to an impressive start. He threw for 1,200 yards in nine games last year with 11 touchdowns. He threw only two interceptions.
This year, he has led the Aggies to a 4-1 start, their best since 1978 when USU won its first five games. In the game against UNLV, Keeton passed for 402 yards and went 20-of-33 with four touchdowns.
His path to a place he'd never heard of in a state he thought was buried beneath snow year round began when he was barely old enough to hold a football, let alone throw it.
"I was going to (my older brother's) games all the time, I don't know," he said smiling. "I guess I just wanted a piece of it."
Easy-going but hard working, Keeton has always played quarterback, save his sophomore year of high school when he switched positions to get varsity playing time.
"I always want to have the football whenever I can," he said. "Just being the guy at the right time or at a critical moment has always been what I've wanted. Some people look at it as a fear, like if I mess up, this will happen or I'll get yelled at. I don't really think about it that much."
That's because the youngest of Charles and Lavern's three children wants to be the reliable guy. That's why he understands why BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson would want to play through injuries.
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